Monthly Archives: August 2013

Mali 2013

Presidential and legislative elections were held in Mali on July 28 and August 11 (presidential runoff) 2013. These elections were originally scheduled to be held in April 2012, but a military coup in March 2012 and the ensuing political chaos and civil war in northern Mali meant that the elections were delayed by over a year.

Mali is a presidential republic, with the President serving as head of state. He is directly elected to a five-year term, renewable once. He appoints a Prime Minister who is head of government – unlike in France, it doesn’t seem like he’s responsible to the legislature. Mali’s unicameral legislature is the National Assembly, made of 160 members. 147 seats are elected in single or multi-member constituencies using a two round system. Malians living abroad are represented by 13 legislators selected in separate polling. The legislature serves a five-year term.

Context: Mali since 1960

Mali is one of the world’s poorest countries, placing 182 out of 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index, with a very low score of 0.34 (for comparison, the US’ HDI is 0.94 and Canada’s is 0.91). 79% of the Malian population lives under $2 a day. Although a lot has been said about the correlation between high income/GDP per capita and democracy, Mali somewhat disproves that idea. Although it’s one of the world’s poorest countries, Mali has been a fairly democratic state, although fledgling and often imperfect, since the 1990s. Before the 2012 coup set the country back, Mali was classified as ‘free’ by the Freedom in the World reports between 1999 and 2012, although with the military coup it tumbled to ‘not free’ in the 2013 report.

Since gaining independence from France in 1960, Mali has had three political eras: single-party socialist rule, single-party military rule and fledgling multiparty democracy.

In 1958 and 1959, the local political leaders of the ‘French Sudan’ (as present-day Mali was then known), spearheaded by Modibo Keïta and his Sudanese Union-African Democratic Rally (US-RDA) favoured a federal union of France’s West African possessions, a position backed by Senegal (and, at the outset, by leaders in Upper Volta and Dahomey) but opposed by Côte-d’Ivoire’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who supported the territorial independence of each West African country – fearing that his wealthier country would become a ‘cash cow’ for its poorer neighbors. After the creation of the confederal ‘French Community’ with the 1958 French constitution, the French Sudan gained internal autonomy. In April 1959, French Sudan and Senegal – led by Léopold Sédar Senghor – united to form the Mali Federation, associated with France until it gained full independence in June 1960.

The federation of Senegal and French Sudan proved very shortlived, collapsing within two months on the back of tensions between Modibo Keïta and Sédar Senghor. Senegal withdrew from the federation in August 1960, and the French Sudan gained independence as Mali, a name which refers to the Mali Empire, a prestigious West African empire (c 1230-c 1600) which made its wealth through regional and trans-Saharan trade.

Modibo Keïta became the President of the new Republic of Mali and quickly created a single-party socialist state. With the idea of ‘economic decolonization’, Keïta pushed for the modernization and collectivization of agriculture – which has remained Mali’s main economic activity. The regime created ‘collective fields’ in each villages, where villagers were forced to grow crops (largely cereals) which they then sold to the state at very low prices. The state wanted to control the supply of food to cities at low prices and hold a monopoly over exports. In 1962, Mali withdrew from the CFA Franc currency and created its own currency, the non-convertible Malian Franc, which further incensed Malian traders, already rather peeved by the state holding a monopoly over exports. In July 1962, a large demonstration by traders was violently crushed and its leaders put on trial.

Collectivization also proved unpopular with farmers, who turned – along with traders – to the black market, further weakening the new country’s economy.

Modibo Keïta was a pan-Africanist and a socialist. Internationally, Keïta’s Mali joined the ranks of the non-aligned movement and enjoyed close ties with the Soviet Union, China, Yugoslavia, India, Nasser’s Egypt, Gaddafi’s Libya and Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana. He also supported the FLN in the Algerian War. Relations with the former colonial power, France, and its former federal counterpart, Senegal, were strained in the first years. That being said, Modibo Keïta never really broke all bridges with France: he signed economic agreements with France in 1963 and 1968. Relations with Senegal, strained since 1960, improved by 1963, leading to the reopening of the crucial rail link between Bamako (Mali) and Dakar (Senegal) – which Mali had closed in 1960.

Modibo Keïta’s regime became increasingly authoritarian after 1962. That same year, until 1964, the Malian government faced the first Tuareg insurgency in northern Mali, inhabited by the nomadic (Berber) Tuareg people who have opposed southern (black) domination of Malian government since independence. In the last years of his regime, Keïta cracked down on nascent opposition, centralized decision-making within the US-RDA and created a paramilitary militia with the aim of ‘transforming’ Malian society along the lines of China’s Cultural Revolution.

In November 1968, Modibo Keïta was overthrown in a military coup led by military officers, among whom was Moussa Traoré, a lieutenant who rose through the ranks of the ruling junta to become head of state and finally sideline his rivals by 1971. Under Moussa Traoré, who became a colonel in October 1971, Mali was a single-party police state/military regime. Traoré is harder to pin down ideologically than Modibo Keïta; his ideology was close to that of hundreds of other dictators without clear ideological orientations except remaining in power and cracking down on those who don’t want you to stay in power. Like the US-RDA before it, Traoré’s single-party moved to control opposition by coopting potential opponents, rivals and civil society groups in corporatist fashion.

Traoré dismantled most of Keïta’s socialist policies, liberalizing cereal marketing, creating incentives for private businesses and negotiating a structural adjustment program from the IMF. The government’s economic policies were unpopular with farmers, who felt that the government wanted to forcibly integrate them into the global capitalist economy, by focusing on cash crops whose exports provided the government with cash. The country also suffered a major drought in 1973-1974.

Moussa Traoré was not really a sanguinary dictator with psychopathic tendencies. In 1978-1980, he moved against the hardliners in the military elite and put them on trial. At the same time, he showed some signs of political liberalization, albeit short-lived.

By 1977 and until his fall in 1991, Traoré’s main opposition came from students and their independent union. There was a large student-led strike in late 1979, to which the regime responded by forcibly conscripting the students into the military. When their mothers took the streets to denounce their sons’ conscription, the police opened fire on the crowd. When the students took to the streets a few months later in March 1980, the regime arrested their leader, who was tortured before dying in captivity.

By 1990, Traoré’s regime was slowly foundering. The structural adjustment policies (austerity) which he had adopted with the IMF were unpopular with large swathes of the population. The second Tuareg insurgency began in June 1990; the government harshly repressed the Tuareg rebellion and imposed a state of emergency in the north.

In October 1990, the opposition formed the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA). Large anti-government and pro-democracy demonstrations, rallying thousands of people in Bamako, took place in December 1990. The movement reignited in March 1991, when student leaders – now backed by government workers and other social groups – organized large rallies in Bamako which quickly turned to all-out rioting. On March 26, 1991, dissident military officers led by Lt. Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré arrested Moussa Traoré and created a new military junta which promised to organize a democratic transition, alongside civilian democratic organizations.

Multiparty democracy was recognized in late 1991 and voters approved a new democratic constitution in January 1992. In April 1992, a ‘national pact’ was signed with the Tuareg rebels in Bamako, in which the Malian government promised to integrate rebels into the military or employ them in the government administration; northern Mali (called Azawad by the Tuaregs) was promised some form of self-determination.

After local and legislative elections in the first months of 1992, a free presidential election was held in April. The ADEMA’S Alpha Oumar Konaré, a former political activist and political leader, handily won the second round with 69%, against 31% for the US-RDA’s Tiéoulé Mamadou Konaté.

Alpha Oumar Konaré held office until 2002. He is generally seen as a successful leader, who managed Mali’s democratic transition and implemented several economic and political (decentralization) reforms during his two terms in office. Mali’s democracy faced a first hiccup in the 1997 elections, which the opposition boycotted after legislative elections in April 1997 under new electoral laws proved chaotic and mismanaged. The opposition’s boycott created a chaotic political situation, in which political violence ran high. Alpha Oumar Konaré obviously won reelection with only token opposition, although turnout was extremely low. He managed to successfully complete his second five-year term in 2002.

Amadou Toumani Touré, widely known in Mali as ‘ATT’, retired from the military in late 2001 to run in the 2002 elections as an independent candidate, on a platform of national unity. ATT won 28.9% in the first round, against 21.4% for ADEMA’s official candidate, former cabinet minister Soumaïla Cissé and 21.2% for Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK), who had served as Prime Minister between 1994 and 2000 before splitting from ADEMA to create his own party, the Rally for Mali (RPM). IBK contested his third place finish; eventually, the Constitutional Court invalidated over 500,000 ballots citing irregularities, but these were not enough to push IBK into second. In the runoff, IBK backed ATT, who defeated Cissé with 65% of the votes.

ATT’s governance was based on consensus with other political parties. He forged an alliance with ADEMA and his former opponent Soumaïla Cissé, who endorsed him in the 2007 election, while his former supported IBK ran against him in 2007. Running on a record of strong economic growth (5-7%) and consensus, ATT was handily reelected by the first round with 71% of the votes against 19.2% against IBK. The opposition cried foul and denounced irregularities, but quickly backed down after realizing that even with irregularities, ATT would still have had no trouble winning – just with a slightly reduced margin.

Mali’s 2012-2013 war and foreign intervention

The past year and few months in Mali have been particularly chaotic and complicated. On January 17, 2012, Tuareg rebels attacked a Malian military outpost at Ménaka in northern Mali, effectively kicking off the third (or fourth or whatever, we’ve lost count) Tuareg insurgency.

Many people blame Gaddafi’s overthrow in Libya and the spillover of Islamic terrorism in the Sahara/Sahel region for the conflict. Indeed, many Tuaregs had fled Mali beginning in the 1970s and, during the Libyan Civil War in 2011, many Tuaregs signed up as mercenaries for Gaddafi’s regime. With Gaddafi’s fall, they flooded back into Mali with weapons and took on the government. Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, a hardline Tuareg rebel who moved to Libya in 2008-2009, hatched a master plan to give the Tuareg rebels military capacities to wage a successful war against Mali. When the wind started turning against Gaddafi, the Tuaregs started pilfering Libyan weapons, broke their alliance of convenience with Gaddafi and moved back to Libya.

However, Gaddafi’s overthrow only provided opportunities for the Tuareg rebels; the cause of their insurgency is the same as that of past north (Tuareg)-south conflicts in Mali since 1962. Between 1992 and 2012, Mali enjoyed uneasy peace under the auspices of the 1992 ‘national pact’ between Tuaregs and the government. The government largely proceeded to ignore most of its promises, while a few ‘refusenik’ Tuareg warlords kept fighting and kept the flame of rebellion alive. In October 2011, Tuareg rebel leaders founded the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).

To further complicate the equation, the conflict also includes a handful of Islamist organization, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Sometime in 2011, a Tuareg rebel and veteran of past insurgencies, Iyad Ag Ghali, who had turned towards Islamist fundamentalism, split from the secular MNLA and created the Islamist Ansar Dine, which wants to impose sharia law in Azawad. Ansar Dine is suspected of having close ties with AQIM, an Al-Qaeda ‘affiliate’ which was, prior to its rebranding in 2007, an Algerian-based Salafist terrorist organization. Between 2007 and 2012, AQIM gained notoriety in Mali, Algeria and France for a number of suicide attacks and hostage takings (including European tourists, humanitarian workers, businessmen, suspected mercenaries etc). AQIM is also suspected of being involved in drug trafficking rings in West Africa.

The links between the MNLA and Iyad Ag Ghali led many to draw wider ties between the ostensibly secular nationalists in the MNLA and the Islamist terrorists, including AQIM. The Malian government has been keen on playing on this rhetoric, to discredit the Tuareg rebels, and the international media led by the AFP has been gobbling the Malian government’s stories of MNLA-AQIM collusion wholesale. As this fantastic article explains, it’s more complicated than that. The MNLA has denied any ties to AQIM, and has insisted that part of its fight is to rid its northern homeland of AQIM. In fact, the MNLA claims that AQIM are in fact secretely backed by the Malian government. Mali’s military has been fighting a dirty war against the MNLA but also Tuareg and Arab civilians for years now, as the above article explains in much detail, with the formation of paramilitary groups engaged in brutal indiscriminate ethnic warfare, and collusion with unsavoury actors including drug traffickers. The MNLA says that Bamako turned a blind eye to AQIM’s terrorist attacks and provided them with a safe haven in northern Mali. There seems to be some good reasons to believe that Mali was indeed being complacent with AQIM and had a non-aggression pact with them, much to the frustration of Paris and Washington, who have pumped millions into Mali for counterterrorism purposes. WikiLeaks cable confirmed that the US believed that Mali was tolerating or colluding with AQIM.

Between January and March 2012, the Malian military suffered a number of setbacks against the well-trained and heavily armed MNLA troops, who may or may not have been working in tandem with AQIM and/or Ansar Dine. Military morale was its lowest point, and the army demanded more supplies and resources to fight the rebellion. Many criticized outgoing President ATT for his alleged moderation and ‘softness’ in dealing with the rebellion. ATT maintained that presidential elections, in which he could not run in because he was term-limited, would go ahead on April 29.

Between March 21 and 22, some military lower-ranking officers led by captain Amadou Haya Sanogo overthrew ATT’s government and announced that a military junta known as the ‘National Committee for the Recovery of Democracy and the Restoration of the State (CNRDRE) announced that it taken power and promised to hold free elections after a new constitution had been written. The coup was met with widespread condemnation from Mali’s political actors, including leading presidential candidates IBK and Cissé as well as most parties, including ADEMA. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the AU suspended Mali’s membership, and adopted sanctions.

The junta’s goal was also to finish off the rebellion in the north. However, taking advantage of the political chaos, the MNLA – likely allied for the time being with Ansar Dine and possibly AQIM – took control of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu – the three major cities in northern Mali. On April 6, the MNLA proclaimed the independence of Azawad.

Infographic of the Malian conflict (source:

Facing international condemnation and the rapid advances of the MNLA – with many thinking that Azawad’s full independence was edging closer to becoming a reality, Sanogo and the junta was forced to back down and hand over power. On April 6, following negotiations, the junta agreed to relinquish power in exchange for ATT officially resigning the presidency and amnesty for the coupists. ATT resigned two days later and Dioncounda Traoré, the president of the National Assembly, became interim President. Nevertheless, the military retained de facto control over the civilian government. Soldiers from Touré’s presidential guard attempted a counter-coup, but they were quickly defeated by pro-junta forces. On May 21, supporters of the junta attacked Traoré in the presidential palace. He left the country for medical treatment and did not return until late July.

In May, the MNLA, Ansar Dine and AQIM announced an alliance, with AQIM saying it would gradually impose sharia law and create an Islamist state. However, only days after the MNLA and Ansar Dine announced that they would auto-dissolve into a transitional council, fighting broke out in early June between the MNLA and Ansar Dine in Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu. On June 27, the Islamists decisively defeated the MNLA in Gao, forcing the MNLA to evacuate the city and Timbuktu. In July, Islamists in Timbuktu destroyed mausoleums in Timbuktu which were on the UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. In November 2012, the MNLA was defeated by Islamists in Ménaka.

In November, ECOWAS adopted a plan to expel the rebels from Mali and send over 3,000 troops. The UN Security Council, in Resolution 2085, approved the plan but required that political efforts be exhausted before the start of military operations – with the UN’s Secretary-General demanding that elections be held before any military intervention.

On January 10, the Malian army was defeated by the Islamists in the city of Konna and were moving towards Mopti, the last major city before Bamako. President Traoré called on French President François Hollande for immediate aid. France had key interests in ensuring that Islamists didn’t topple Mali’s fragile government, not only would it destabilize the government it would also threaten France’s uranium mining interests in neighboring Niger. Hollande responded favourably very quickly, and announced opération Serval. France’s military intervention took place alongside smaller military contingents from AU and ECOWAS members, with the largest non-French or Malian forces coming from Chad, Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso and Togo. Britain, the US, Canada, the EU and Russia provided logistical support, while Algeria allowed France to use bases in Algeria.

Within hours of Hollande’s decision, French helicopters engaged with a rebel column near Konna. On January 17, French and Malian troops retook Konna. On January 25-26, after air bombings, France and Mali retook Gao. On January 27-28, a French air and land assault successfully retook Timbuktu from AQIM. During that time, other African troops took smaller cities in northern Mali. The MNLA, which said it was open to working with France but not with Mali, claimed that it took a number of small towns which were controlled by rival Islamist movements. France moved to take Kidal, the last major northern town still controlled by Islamists. After heavy bombings in the Kidal region, France took the city on January 30-31. On February 2, Hollande visited Timbuktu, where he was welcomed as a hero, and received a camel as a token of appreciation (I only mention this because that video of Taylor Swift’s song remixed with Hollande’s camel is hilarious).

After the ‘reconquest’, French, Malian and African troops have been the target of suicide attacks or guerrilla attacks by Islamist movements (primarily AQIM splinter Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, MUJWA) – although not Ansar Dine and AQIM, which retreated to the north. Between February and March, they launched three hopeless de facto suicide raids on Gao. In February, France and Chad launched attacks against the Adrar Tigharghar, a montainous region in northeastern Mali where AQIM and factions of Ansar Dine had fled. By mid-March, French and Chadian troops had successfully taken control of AQIM’s main north Malian base, with France losing 3 men and Chad losing 27 soldiers. Low intensity warfare continued, notably in cities with suicide raids/attacks.

Negotiations between the MNLA and the Malian government, mediated by the President of Burkina Faso, took place in Ouagadougou beginning in May. The MNLA grudgingly accepted the organization of Malian elections in Kidal, which they controlled. Tensions between Mali and the MNLA aggravated in June, following the arrest of 180 persons by the MNLA in Kidal and alleged MNLA attacks against black populations in the city. On June 18, Mali and the MNLA (and another Tuareg organization) agreed to a cease-fire to allow for the presidential election. The campaign in Kidal was nonetheless disturbed by violent clashes between blacks and Tuaregs.

Candidates and the first round

The international community, particularly France, was very eager to organize the ‘indefinitely delayed’ elections as soon as possible. Hollande has little interest in French entanglement in a prolonged conflict in Mali, particularly because economic troubles at home and his own government’s deep unpopularity means that he has other concerns and initial public support for the French intervention has fallen. France, the US and other western countries want a democratically-elected president who can push forward talks with the MNLA, and restore political normalcy after over a year of political uncertainty in Bamako.

There has therefore been a lot of criticism that France pushed Mali into holding an election before it was really feasible. Nearly 500,000 Malians fled the country or are internally displaced, meaning that the rushed timetable meant for a rather chaotic electoral organization – with reviewing four-year old electoral lists, distributing biometric voter IDs and setting up polling stations.

Candidates needed to pay a deposit of 10 million CFA francs and receive signatures from ten parliamentarians or five local councillors from all regions and the Bamako district. The Constitutional Court rejected 8 out of 36 candidates.

The top candidates were:

Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK), former Prime Minister (1994-2000) and leader/founder of the Rally for Mali (RPM). IBK is 68 and has been active in Malian politics since democratization in the 1990s. He split from ADEMA when they passed him over for the 2002 presidential nomination, leading him to form his own party and run on his own, placing third before backing eventual winner, ATT. He backed ATT until ATT hooked up with ADEMA, and was the top opposition candidate against ATT in 2007. Before becoming a leading politician in his native country, the Paris-educated IBK spent 26 years in France, as a researcher and lecturer. Malian politics are unsurprisingly very much personality-based and driven, and ideology – especially what we think of as ideology and left-right politics – isn’t a big deal. IBK is officially socialist (the RPM is a member of the Socialist International), but he liberalized the Malian economy while Prime Minister and won a reputation as being tough on trade unions.

There was a lot of speculation that IBK was the junta’s preferred candidate, noting that he was the only major 2012 presidential candidate who wasn’t roughed up by the junta or forced to flee in exile. Many felt that he was the unofficial candidate of the junta and captain Sanogo. IBK was also endorsed by the High Islamic Council of Mali, a powerful circle of 20 or so Islamic organizations in the country, which over 90% Muslim. An article from France24 described him as ‘shapeshifter’. He kind of presented himself as a ‘strongman’ but also spoke of the need for reconciliation and a lasting peace settlement with the Tuareg.

Soumaïla Cissé, former cabinet minister and president of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (2004-2011); leader of the Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD). Soumaïla Cissé is another veteran politician, having served as minister of finance until President Alpha Oumar Konaré in the 1990s before being backed by Alpha Oumar Konaré and his party, ADEMA, in the 2002 election. Cissé was hurt by divisions within ADEMA after IBK’s split from the party, and eventually lost the runoff ballot to ATT in a landslide. In 2003, Cissé  split from ADEMA to create the URD, which, like ADEMA, supported ATT in the 2007 election – against IBK. Cissé is IBK’s longtime political rival, but their feud is largely personal, not ideological. Their main ‘ideological’ disagreement is probably in their attitudes towards the March 2012 coup. While IBK was never on bad terms with Sanogo, Cissé was forced to flee his home after pro-junta troops attacked him. His party, the URD, joined ADEMA in a front du refus which opposed the coup.

Dramane Dembélé, former Director-General of Geology and Mines (2005-2011), candidate of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali-African Party for Solidarity and Justice (ADEMA-PASJ). Dramane Dembélé, a 46-year old engineer, was the surprise candidate of ADEMA, Mali’s largest and best organized party. In the last local elections, in 2009, ADEMA won by far the most seats – about 3,100 to the URD’s 1,900 or so and the RPM’s 773. Although Dembélé is unknown and has no political experience, he benefited from the support of Mali’s interim president, Dioncounda Traoré, ADEMA’s original candidate for the abortive 2012 elections. Dioncounda Traoré gave up his candidacy when he became interim president, as part of the peace agreement with the junta.

Modibo Sidibé, former Prime Minister (2007-2011). Sidibé served as ATT’s Prime Minister between 2007 and 2011, after having previously served in previous cabinets in the 1990s and as ATT’s secretary-general to the presidency between 2002 and 2007. A 2012 candidate, Sidibé was arrested by the junta in March 2012. He is considered an ATT loyalist.

Housseini Amion Guindo, former deputy for Sikasso circle (2005-2010). Guindo, a former member of the RPM, represented the Sikasso circle in southern Mali in the National Assembly between 2005 and 2010. He was also, apparently, owner of a football club and president of the Malian Football Federation between 2007 and 2009.

Oumar Mariko, doctor. Mariko already ran in 2002 (0.8%) and 2007 (2.7%) for a small clearly left-wing party, African Solidarity for Development and Independence (SADI). Mariko opposed both of Mali’s two democratically-elected presidents, most recently ATT. He decried the privatization by ATT’s government of Mali’s state-owned textile development company. His campaign this year called for the “equitable distribution of resources” and a strong democratic state. However, Mariko’s SADI was the only party which openly supported the March 2012 coup.

Choguel Kokalla Maiga was a close ally of former military dictator Moussa Traoré, and was the candidate for Moussa Traoré’s renamed former single-party.

Cheick Modibo Diarra, former NASA engineer of head of Microsoft Africa. Modibo Diarra was an astrophysicist before being appointed to be Mali’s Prime Minister in April 2012 after the junta handed over power. The junta apparently assumed he would be malleable, but they ended up arresting him in December 2012. Modibo Diarra is the son-in-law of former dictator Moussa Traoré, who apparently endorsed him over his own son, Cheick Boucadry Traoré, in 2012.

By all the attention he received in the US media, you would have assumed that Yeah Samaké, the mayor of Ouéléssébougou, was a frontrunner. Many people treated him as such in 2012. The main reason why he has received so much attention is that he is a Mormon who got his masters at Brigham Young University in Utah. He’s apparently the only Mormon in the country. I doubt that he was ever a frontrunner; it was just another case of the uninformed foreign media being totally inept at covering African elections even remotely seriously.

Despite fears that things would go wrong, the first round on July 28 was peaceful and successful, and widely judged as free and fair. In fact, no candidate denounced fraud, although Cissé criticized the rushed organization of the vote. Turnout was 48.98%, low by international standards but something of an all-time high for democratic Mali. Turnout was only 36.2% in 2007 and 38.3% in 2002. The high stakes of this election, especially compared to 2007, likely explains the high turnout.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta 39.79%
Soumaïla Cissé 19.7%
Dramane Dembelé 9.71%
Modibo Sidibé 4.97%
Housseini Amion Guindo 4.75%
Oumar Mariko 2.57%
Choguel Kokalla Maïga 2.36%
Cheick Modibo Diarra 2.14%
Jeamille Bittar 1.77%
Mountaga Tall 1.54%
Moussa Mara 1.53%
Mamadou Bakary Sangaré 1.08%
16 others under 1% – 8.09%

IBK won the second round on August 11 and Soumaïla Cissé conceded defeat, in person, the next day. I haven’t seen any figures for the second round yet, but I assume IBK likely won well over 60%.

IBK, therefore, easily won the race to become Mali’s third democratically-elected president – and also the man with the unenviable task of forging national reconciliation with the Tuareg minority, patching together a war-torn country’s economy and ensuring that Mali doesn’t fall prey to radical Islamism once more.

IBK’s success in the first round was likely due to his attractive image as a ‘strongman’ – though one who also promised ‘national reconciliation’ at the same time. I’m not sure to what extent the alleged backing of the junta and the open support of religious organizations helped him win votes.

In the second round, IBK received the endorsement of most defeated candidates. Dramane Dembelé personally endorsed him, saying that they were both members of the Socialist International, although ADEMA officially backed Cissé, their ally in the anti-junta coalition. Housseini Amion Guindo and, unsurprisingly, pro-coup candidate Oumar Mariko endorsed IBK. Modibo Sidibé endorsed Cissé. A number of other candidates, including Choguel Kokalla Maïga, also backed IBK. Slightly more surprisingly, two MNLA leaders – chief negotiator Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh and one official Mohamed Ousmane Ag Medoune – endorsed IBK. Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh, who opposed Azawad’s declaration of independence, is something of a free-firing maverick within the MNLA, while the other guy said he was backing IBK because Cissé opposed autonomy for northern Mali (but so does IBK, as far as I know).

Results of the first round of the Malian presidential election by ‘cercles’ (source:

The map of the results showed a north-south split in the results. The north-south is one of the main divides in Mali since independence. The much more densely populated south, consisting of savannahs and forests, is home to the vast majority of the Malian population. Southern Malians are sedentary black Africans. The Mandé/Mandingue family – consisting of the Bambara,  Soninké and Malinké among others – make up 50% of the Malian population. The Bambara language has become Mali’s main lingua franca. Other black groups include the Voltaic Sénoufo, the Dogon, the Peul/Fula and the Songhai. The Sahel region, a semi-arid area, forms a transition zone between north and south. It lives around the Niger river valley and interior delta. Geographically, the north covers the two thirds of the country and includes the historic centre of Timbuktu, but it is only sparsely populated because it is an arid region covered by the Sahara. Many/most inhabitants of the region are nomadic/semi-nomadic Tuareg and Moors, known as ‘white/light-skinned’ Arab-Berbers. At this point, though, the Tuareg do not form a majority of the population in ‘Azawad’.

There is a long history of resentment between the blacks and the ‘whites’/Arab-Berbers. The Arab-Berbers owned black slaves until French colonial rule; since 1960, the Tuareg have resented that they lost their de facto independence/autonomy enjoyed under French colonialism and came under the control of a ‘foreign’ and ‘colonial’ power in Bamako controlled by blacks. The background to the current Tuareg conflict is therefore long and complicated.

Anyhow, in the first round, Cissé, who was born in either Timbuktu or Niafunké to Peul and Songhai parents, dominated in Timbuktu region with about 46% of the vote in that region. In the 2002 runoff election, Cissé won about 55% in Gao and Timbuktu region, and 72% in Kidal. ATT’s military background probably hurt him in the north, given the military’s long history of repression against the Tuareg – though ATT’s best results in 2007, in turn, came from the north, not the south…

Cissé won 68% in Niafunké and about 32% in Timbuktu, his support also extended into the Sahel (Mopti region), an area with a large Peul and Songhai population.

IBK did best in the south, winning 71% in Bamako and similarly well in the region surrounding the capital. Being a Bambara meant that he won most of central southern Mali, but he also won strong results in regions of the south which appear to be mostly Malinké, Soninké and, to a lesser extent, Sénoufo.

Guindo won Bandiagara, where he’s apparently from. He also won a neighboring ‘cercle’. Guindo is a Dogon and consequently performed well in Dogon country.

Kidal is not coloured in on this map, but on unofficial results, IBK won with 30.7% against 27.3% for Modibo Sidibé and 18.9% for Cissé.

It is worth keeping in mind, however, that turnout in Kidal was extremely low. Unlike in 2002 or 2007, turnout was lower in the north than in the south. The highest turnout was 57.9% in Bamako and 55% in Mopti, turnout was about 50-51% in every other region except Kayes (46.7%) in the southwest. While turnout was over 50% in both Timbukutu and Gao, turnout in those two regions was slightly lower than in 2007, in sharp contrast with the southern and Sahelian regions, where turnout rose sharply from 2007. In Kidal – heavily Tuareg, isolated and a MNLA holdout, where turnout was a strong 52.6% in 2007, it dropped to only 13.9% – and it was also quite low in other MNLA strongholds in Gao and Timbuktu (which explains, for example, why IBK won 72% in Menaka in Gao). The Tuareg population largely did not vote this year – which is not surprising, given that the MNLA’s official position has been to tolerate these elections but pay no attention to them.

Cissé conceded defeat to IBK even before any results were announced, and went to IBK’s house to do so in person. Cissé’s honourable concession is good news in that it ensures a peaceful transfer of power to IBK, and gives IBK full legitimacy. IBK is further boosted by French and European support, who have promised millions and millions in aid to Mali.

IBK’s first priority, in his own words, is national reconciliation. According to the preliminary deal signed in Ouagadougou with the MNLA, peace negotiations must open within 60 days of the new government taking power. IBK opposes autonomy for ‘Azawad’ and instead talks of another round of decentralization policies. IBK faces an extremely challenging situation all over, with an economy in ruins from the conflict, the lingering threat of an Islamist insurgency, the difficulty of achieving durable peace with the Tuareg (basically, can he achieve what everybody else before him failed to do?) and the question of controlling the still influential pro-coup elements of the army close to captain Sanogo. Can Mali reemerge as a democracy after the chaos of 2012-2013?

World Elections is taking a short holiday until September 3, to come back for a superb month of major elections in September. Enjoy the rest of August!

Ontario (Canada) by-elections 2013

Five provincial by-elections were held in Ontario (Canada) on August 1, 2013 in the ridings of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, London West, Ottawa South, Scarborough-Guildwood and Windsor-Tecumseh. These seats fell vacant between early February and late June 2013, after their incumbent MPPs – all five Liberals, including a former Premier and three other former provincial cabinet ministers – resigned their seats.

The timing of the by-elections raised a few eyebrows. Elections rarely fall during the heat of the summer months, so many thought that Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne deliberately scheduled by-elections in early August to ensure low turnout and so that voters don’t have too much time to read into the results of the by-election while they’re on vacation or prepping for vacation. Besides, August 1 fell on a Thursday right before a long weekend (the first Monday in August is Ontario’s provincial holiday).

Poll-by-poll maps of the 2011 provincial election results are available on the Blunt Objects blog or the Canadian Election Atlas blog. Interactive maps of the results of federal elections since 1997 to the polling station level are available on the awesome Canadian Federal Election Atlas. My riding profiles integrate the results of the voluntary 2011 National Household Survey, which replaced the mandatory long-form census. Results of the NHS are available on Stats Can’s website.


In October 2011, Premier Dalton McGuinty’s provincial Liberals won a third straight term in office; but unlike in 2003 and 2007, they fell short – by a single seat – of winning a majority government. Therefore, for the first time since gaining power in 2003, the Liberals have been forced to work with other parties to pass legislation.

Ontario’s economy has been struggling in the past few years, a far cry from the days where Canada’s most populous province was seen as the country’s economic/industrial powerhouse. Indeed, Ontario’s manufacturing-driven and export-oriented economy has been badly hurt by subdued domestic activity and declining demand from the US. Economic growth slowed to 1.5% in 2012 and is forecast to remain low in 2013, although growth could increase by 2014 if US growth accelerates. The provincial government has been forced to deal with, since 2008-2009, a very large deficit and ballooning public debt. The 2013-2014 deficit projection is $11.8 billion, up from a $9.8 billion deficit in 2012-2013; the province’s debt stands at 37.5% of GDP and should increase to 40% by 2015-2016. The size of Ontario’s debt and deficit has led some fiscally conservative economists to liken Ontario to California and Greece.

The Liberal government introduced a severe austerity-minded budget in 2012, including major cuts in government spending and services and a two-year pay freeze for public sector employees (including teachers and doctors). The opposition Progressive Conservatives (PCs), led by Tim Hudak, rejected the budget out of hand, claiming it did not do enough to curb “runaway spending” and debt. The Liberals were forced to reach a compromise with the centre-left New Democrats (NDP), led by Andrea Horwath. In April, the NDP agreed to prop up the government in return for the inclusion of a tax on high incomes, although in June the province seemed to be on the verge of an election when the NDP and the PCs started voting against key planks of the budget. McGuinty threatened to call an election until the NDP blinked and abstained on the final vote, allowing the Liberal government to survive its first supply vote.

The Liberal government’s decision to impose a two-year pay freeze on public employees was met by strong opposition from teachers and their unions. In September 2012, the Liberals – with PC support – passed the very controversial Bill 115 (‘Putting Students First Act’) which severely limited teachers’ right to strike and imposed the two-year pay freeze (along with less benefits). There were rolling one-day strikes by elementary school teachers throughout the province in early and mid-December. The government and the unions finally reached agreement shortly after the bill’s December 31 deadline, and Bill 115 was repealed in January 2013. However, elementary and high school teachers promised province-wide one-day walkouts until the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled the walkouts illegal.

To make things worse, McGuinty’s Liberals were constantly dogged by various high-profile scandals which have seriously undermined the government’s legitimacy and popularity. The Liberal government has faced various scandals since taking office in 2003, but after 2011, it was as if all the most crippling scandals came raining down. In December 2011, the government was drawn into the Ornge (the province’s air-ambulance service) scandal, after allegations of financial irregularities, cost overruns, huge salaries for managers and kickbacks. It was later shown that the McGuinty government had wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars in Ornge and had turned a blind eye to earlier reports of corruption.

However, the most damaging scandal has been the power plants scandal. In 2009, the Liberal government, which had closed down two polluting coal-powered power plants in southern Ontario approved the construction of two new natural gas-fired power plants in Oakville and Mississauga, two suburban communities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) – and also key electoral battlegrounds. However, the plants faced the opposition of local residents, which forced the Liberals to cancel the Oakville plant in October 2010. In September 2011, a month before the elections and facing a strong challenge – notably in Mississauga – from the Tories and the NDP, the Liberals cancelled the Mississauga power plant. The Oakville cancellation cost $40 million and the Mississauga cancellation cost $190 million. Today, the total cost for the cancellation of two plants – which includes the need to build two new plants to replace them – could be $600 million.

The Liberals were reelected in October 2011, and held seats in Mississauga and Oakville. In the summer of 2012, the emboldened PCs and New Democrats called on Liberal energy minister Chris Bentley to hand over all documents related to the gas plant cancellations, which he refused to do, until September 2012. In early October, Bentley was facing an opposition motion which would hold him in “contempt of Parliament” – a very serious and rare offence which might have meant jail time for him.

The power plant scandal was one of the major factors which led Premier McGuinty to announce his surprise resignation on October 15. However, at the same time, the outgoing Premier prorogued Parliament – effectively killing off the opposition’s contempt motion.

The Liberal leadership election on January 26, 2013 opposed six candidates – the top three being former MPP and cabinet minister Sandra Pupatello, incumbent cabinet minister Kathleen Wynne and former provincial cabinet minister and former federal Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy. Kathleen Wynne, considered as being on the left of the party, won on the third ballot at the convention, with 57% against 43% for Pupatello.

The Liberals, who had dropped to third place and oscillating in the low-to-mid 20s, saw their support increase considerably after Wynne’s election, shooting into second or first place and over 30% – in some cases over 35%. There were rumours – unfounded – that Wynne would seek a mandate of her own and take advantage of her honeymoon.

In May 2013, the NDP once again backed the Liberals’ 2013 budget, which included a few NDP-influenced goodies (15% cut in auto insurance, new funding for youth jobs etc) while continuing with the government’s stated intent to achieve a surplus in 2017-2018. Two of the NDP’s three post-budget demands were satisfied by the Liberals. The gas plant scandal has continued to hurt the Liberals, with recent revelations of Liberal cover-ups or attempts to intimidate the speaker. Wynne has been unable to shake off the perception that she is only a new face on the McGuinty Liberal government, rather than a clear break with McGuinty’s tainted legacy.


Etobicoke-Lakeshore (source: Elections Canada)

Etobicoke-Lakeshore covers the southern portion of the former city of Etobicoke in western Toronto. The riding, which borders Lake Ontario to the south and the Humber River to the east, includes neighborhoods such as Mimico, New Toronto, Long Branch, Alderwood, The Queensway or Eatonville.

The seat fell vacant in July when the Liberal incumbent, former education minister Laurel Broten resigned, apparently to move to Nova Scotia. Broten, who first won her seat in 2003, served as McGuinty’s Minister of Education between 2011 and 2013, and became closely associated with the government’s push against teacher’s unions over pay, benefits and Bill 115. She was shuffled to Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs after Wynne became Premier, but she resigned effective July 2.

Taken as a whole, Etobicoke-Lakeshore is a fairly middle-class and white-collar riding. It has a high percentage of residents with a university diploma or degree (33.5%), a high percentage of residents employed in managerial occupations or business/finance/administration (34%) and a fairly high median household income ($58,088 in 2005). Only 7.9% of the riding’s labour force is employed in manufacturing. Demographically, 23.8% of the riding’s inhabitants are visible minorities, a rather high proportion by provincial or national standards, but the lowest of all Toronto ridings. South Asians (4.6% of the population) form the largest single visible minority group. That being said, a significantly larger percentage of the riding’s residents are immigrants – 39.5% (27.7% of which immigrated after 2001).

Etobicoke-Lakeshore is home to one of the largest Eastern European populations in all of Canada: 21.7% of the riding’s residents are of Eastern European ancestry, most of them Polish (10% of the population) or Ukrainian (7.6%). As a result, it has a large Catholic (40.8%) and Eastern Orthodox (5.9%) population and a small but significant share of the population claim languages such as Polish or Ukrainian as their mother tongues.

In 2005, 60.1% of dwellings were owned.

At a more micro level, the riding present a diverse mix of neighborhoods. Traditionally, the communities lining the lake have been more industrial and working-class: Mimico, New Toronto or Long Branch (but especially the first two) – and to this day, these neighborhoods remain slightly less affluent and more lower middle-class/working-class in character. That being said, the coastal stretch of the riding has been changed by the construction of a large number of high-rise condo towers on the Humber Bay Shores, which has attracted some wealthier residents.

In contrast, the neighborhoods north of the Gardiner Expressway between Mimico Creek and the Humber River (The Kingsway, Lambton Hills etc) are upper middle-class, high-income and well educated. The Kingsway is one of Toronto’s most affluent neighborhoods.

Other neighborhoods such as Alderwood, Sunnylea, Norseman Heights and Eatonville are post-war middle-class suburban communities, with single family homes but also their share of apartments or condos along main arteries. Alderwood and Sunnylea have a particularly high Polish and/or Ukrainian population. These areas were identified as some of the last remaining ‘middle-income’ neighborhoods in a 2010 study about income polarization since 1970 in Toronto.

Islington-City Centre West, a densely populated neighborhood at the intersections of Bloor and Dundas streets (two of the city’s main avenues), includes a number of lower-income high-rise apartment buildings and has a fairly large visible minority population.

Finally, the riding includes large swathes of industrial land, including a large rail yard in New Toronto and a major industrial/business district north of the Gardiner Expressway.

Politically, all three parties have a history in the riding. What would become Etobicoke-Lakeshore flipped between the Liberals and the Conservatives until the 1940s, at which point the socialist CCF – and their successor, the NDP – became a major force, fighting with the Tories over the riding. The CCF/NDP’s strength was concentrated in the industrial and working-class areas of Mimico and New Toronto, while the northern half of the present-day riding was more reliably Conservative. Provincially, the NDP’s Patrick Lawlor held the seat between 1967 and 1981, the Tories gaining the seat when he retired. In 1985, the NDP’s Ruth Grier regained the seat from the PCs and held it until 1995, when Morley Kells, a Conservative, took the seat. Kells was defeated in 2003 by Liberal candidate Laurel Broten, who increased her majorities not only in 2007 but also in 2011 (when she won by 21.8%). In 2011, she won a third term with 51% against 29% for the PCs; the NDP took only 15.5%, the new suburban nature of the riding has made it progressively more hostile to the NDP.

Federally, the seat has a longer Liberal history. Most famously, it was former federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s seat between 2006 and his surprise defeat at the hands of Conservative candidate Bernard Trottier in 2011. The Liberals, who had held the seat since 1993 with about 45-50% of the vote in every elections, fell to only 35.1% in 2011, against 40.4% for the Tories. The NDP increased its support to 20.3%.

In October 2011, Liberal incumbent Laurel Broten swept most of the riding, winning polls throughout the riding, in both the urban and lower-income south and the more suburban, middle-class north. The Conservatives won a few scattered polls throughout the riding, their strongest results coming from The Kingsway, a traditional Tory bastion. A few months prior in the federal elections, the Conservatives had won most of the polls, doing best in The Kingsway but also in Humber Bay Shores and swingy middle-class suburbs such as Eatonville, Alderwood, Sunnylea, The Queensway or Long Branch which had previously been more or less solidly Liberal. Ignatieff managed to keep a few lower-income polls red, notably in Islington, New Toronto and parts of Mimico. The NDP polled quite well in the southern half of the riding and other apartment-laden areas, but did poorly in the affluent neighborhoods.

The PCs recruited a very strong candidate, Toronto Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday. Holyday was the city of Etobicoke’s last mayor between 1994 and 1998, when it was amalgamated with other municipalities to form the single-tier city of Toronto. He has been a Toronto city councillor since 1998, although his current ward covers part of the riding of Etobicoke Centre, not Etobicoke-Lakeshore. In council, he had a reputation as a staunch fiscal conservative, but he seems to be respected across ideological lines for his honesty. Holyday is a close ally of Toronto’s bombastic (and embattled) conservative mayor, Rob Ford. Etobicoke as a whole, Ford’s stomping grounds, is a core part of the so-called ‘Ford Nation’. In the 2010 election, Rob Ford won over 55% in both wards covering Etobicoke-Lakeshore, and took well over 60% in middle-class suburbs such as Alderwood, Eatonville, Stonegate or The Queensway. Interestingly, Ford didn’t do as well (comparatively) in the most affluent and well-educated polls, even the solidly Conservative Kingsway (although he still won it comfortably).

There was some limited controversy about how Hudak more or less dumped the original PC candidate, a lesser known guy named Steve Ryan, in favour of his star candidate, Holyday. Officially, Ryan dropped out because of injuries sustained in a car accident.

The Liberals nominated Peter Milczyn, another Toronto city councillor whose ward covers the northern half of the riding. Like Holyday, Milczyn is a right-leaning councillor and is generally pro-Ford.

Although one might have expected that a race between two right-leaning candidates might have opened up some wiggle room on the left for the NDP, that wasn’t the case. The NDP nominated Pak-Cheong ‘P.C.’ Choo, a Malaysian-born Canadian and formed public school board trustee. The race quickly turned into a highly polarized and acrimonious contest between the PC’s Holyday and the Liberals’ Milczyn. Mayor Rob Ford publicly endorsed Holyday, and even ‘recommended’ that anti-Conservative/anti-Ford voters vote for the NDP rather than the Liberals.

The first polls, in the last week of June and then in the second week of July, showed the Liberals with a strong leader – a 25% point lead in June, reduced to a 6% lead in early July. Holyday’s candidacy was great news for the PCs, who shot into the lead in mid-July, leading the Liberals by as much as 7% according to a Forum Research poll on July 24. Two polls on July 30, however, showed a very close race: Forum had the PCs up by 4%, one ‘Campaign Research’ had them trailing by one.

Turnout was 38.6%, down from 50% in 2011:

Doug Holyday (PC) 46.94% (+17.4%)
Peter Milczyn (Liberal) 41.96% (-9.06%)
P.C. Choo (NDP) 7.82% (-7.63%)
Angela Salewsky (Green) 2.26% (-0.42%)
Hans Kunov (Libertarian) 0.45% (+0.06%)
Dan King (Special Needs) 0.45%
Kevin Clarke (People’s) 0.25%
Wayne Simmons (Freedom) 0.16% (-0.24%)

Tim Hudak’s Tories scored an impressive gain in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, turning a 22-point deficit in the last election into a comfortable 5-point victory over the Liberals. In 2011, Hudak’s PCs, widely seen as being too right-wing, did poorly throughout the city of Toronto – oftentimes doing worse than they had in 2007, under a less successful (but more moderate) leader. Therefore, Holyday’s victory, is a major coup for Hudak’s PCs – as we’ll see, probably their brightest spot on an otherwise mediocre night. This is the first time a provincial Tory has won a seat in Toronto proper since Mike Harris’ victory in the 1999 provincial election, and while Hudak could win the next election while still being shut out (or nearly shut out) of Toronto proper (he’d need to win big in Toronto’s suburbs, however), the ability to win a seat in Toronto is very good news for the PCs – and bad news for the Liberals, whose 2011 reelection was, in part, due to holding up very well in Toronto proper.

Of course, the PC gain does owe a lot to Doug Holyday. The Tories recruited a very strong star candidate in Holyday, a popular city councillor. With a lesser known, less prominent candidates, it is quite possible that the Liberals could have held the seat, although the PCs would likely have made some gains on their paltry 2011 showing.

Squeezed by two strong and polarizing candidates for the Liberals and the Tories, the NDP’s P.C. Choo did poorly, winning only 7.8% of the vote – a low point for the NDP, which last won in the single digits in the 2000 federal election and had managed to garner between 15% and 20% in most provincial elections since 1999. That being said, many Canadian by-elections – both federally and provincially – in recent years turned into polarized two-party contests with the third party, which might have managed a rather decent showing in the last general election, being totally squeezed by the two main parties and ending up with a poor vote share. In this sense, while the NDP’s result in Etobicoke-Lakeshore is disappointing for the party, it probably doesn’t have any longer-term consequences: the NDP didn’t put much effort into this race, and a higher-turnout general election will probably be less polarized between the top two parties.

London West

London West (source: Elections Canada)

London West, as you might have guessed again, covers the western end of the city of London in southwestern Ontario. The riding is divided in two by the Thames River; it includes neighborhoods such as Oakridge, Hyde Park, Byron, River Bend, Westmount, Southcrest, South London and Medway Heights.

The seat became vacant on February 14, 2013 when Liberal MPP Chris Bentley, (in)famous since the power plants scandal, resigned. Bentley was a McGuinty loyalist and sometimes seen as a potential successor. He held several high-profile portfolios during his ten years in government: labour (2003-2005), colleges and universities (2005-2007), Attorney General (2007-2011) and – of course – energy (2011-2013).

London West is the most suburban, affluent and white-collar riding of the city of London’s three core ridings. Its median household income, $56,859 in 2005, land it right smack in the middle of all Ontario ridings when ranked by that measure. 13.5% of residents in 2005 were low on income (before tax), again the lowest of London’s three ridings. It is not, however, the most educated riding of the three: London North Centre, which includes the University of Western Ontario, takes that honour; however, it is still quite educated: 28.1% have a university diploma or degree, and only 13.8% lack a high school diploma, the lowest out of the three ridings. Sales and services (24.6%) and business/finance/administration (15.7%) are the top two occupations; not all that surprising for a largely suburban and residential riding. However, it does stand out by the large percentage of the labour force employed in health (8.6%) and “occupations in education, law and social, community and government services” (15.1%) – both significantly above the provincial average. In terms of ‘industry’ (NAICS classifications), healthcare and social services (14.7%), retail trade (11.6%) and ‘educational services’ (10.9%) are the top three industries; again, on healthcare and education, London West’s percentages are significantly above the provincial average. These numbers likely reflect the presence of London’s general hospital in the riding and the proximity of Western U (I’m guessing university staff including profs, rather than students, are more likely to live in London West).

For a urban/suburban riding, London West has a small non-white population; only 15.1% are visible minorities, the leading such groups being Latin Americans (2.9% of the total population) and Arabs (2.4%). Therefore, the leading ancestries are European: English (32.1%), Scottish (22.3%), Irish (21.5%) but also ‘Canadian’ (25%).

In 2005, 62.2% of dwellings were owned and 37.8% were rented.

London West is a mixed urban and suburban riding, which includes both very recent suburban housing developments and urban neighborhoods which were first developed in the late nineteenth century as early suburbs of London. Located south of the Thames River opposite the city’s downtown, South London is very much a urban area, with old houses – ranging from smaller bungalows to some post-war constructions and larger (old) properties. On the north of the river, and just across downtown, the Blackfriars area is similarly urban, with a large student population.

Other neighborhoods, however, tend to be more suburban, although they tend to vary in terms of affluence. At the western end of the riding, River Bend, the Hunt Club part of Oakridge and other small neighborhoods on either side of the Thames are some of the most affluent areas in the city, with very large houses (of the ‘McMansion’ type). The Southcrest and Manor Park area, located south of the Thames, have more ‘urban’ demographics: less families, more renters and slightly lower incomes. Neighborhoods such as Westmount, Byron (both south of the river), Oakridge Acres, Medway Heights or White Hill (all north of the river) are typically suburban areas; more families, most houses being owned and single houses (although there quite a few small apartment blocks, row houses or community housing projects too) and more affordable property prices. A lot of areas have older properties, likely post-70s, but there has been rapid housing development in new cookie-cutter subdivisions in parts.

Politically, the western end of London has tended to be a closely disputed Liberal/Conservative marginal, and something of a bellwether (with an imperfect track record). The provincial Liberals have held the seat since 2003, but the federal Tories came within a hair of picking it up in 2006 and they have held it since 2008. At the provincial level, the seat was only created in 1999 when provincial ridings were lined up with federal ridings; prior to that, provincial ridings were divided north to south, cut by the Thames River. The PCs were generally strong in both ridings, Tory Premier John Robarts represented the area between 1951 and 1971. The Liberals gained London North, the more suburban of the two, in 1977 and held it until a 1988 by-election (the PCs then held that seat until its demise). They held London South between 1975 and 1977 and again between 1985 and 1990, when the NDP gained London South for a single term. The very right-wing Bob Wood, a ‘maverick’ social conservative within the Harris PC caucus, gained the seat in 1995 and was reelected in London West in 1999, although only by a tiny margin. Chris Bentley, a lawyer and former prof, gained the seat for the McGuinty Liberals in 2003, defeating Wood by nearly 21 points. He was reelected with a 28% majority in 2007 and defeated the PCs by a 16% margin in 2011. The NDP did quite well in October 2011, winning 21.7%.

Federally, the seat has voted with the national winner in every election except 1979 (when it reelected its Liberal MP) and 2006 (same story). London West was, however, always the top Tory target of the three urban ridings in London. In 2006, when Harper first won power, they lost it by only 2.2% to the incumbent Liberal MP, Sue Barnes. The Conservatives, with Ed Holder, gained it with a 3.7% majority over the Liberals. In the 2011 election, Holder had no problems holding his seat; he won by nearly 18 points, taking 44.5% to the Liberals’ 26.8% and the NDP’s 25.9% (a record high for the Dippers).

The October 2011 results map is largely a sea of red, with a good number of orange polls and a rather small number of blue polls. Indeed, Bentley, who won by 16 points, won polls throughout the riding, breaking the urban-suburban split which candidates (especially Liberals) need to breach in order to win. He did well in the urban South London and Blackfriars neighborhoods, but also just as well in suburban Westmount, Byron, Oakridge and – to a lesser extent – Southcrest and Medway. The PCs did best in River Bend and the Hunt Club part of Oakridge; basically, the PCs performed best in the McMansion neighborhoods and the very affluent ‘executive’ neighborhoods near golf courses – for example, the Tories took 55% in Riverbend Golf Community, a 50+ gated community/country club. The NDP won more polls than the PCs, and won a number of polls scattered throughout the riding. They won consistently solid numbers in the less affluent (bungalow-type housing) parts of urban South London, and in Manor Park. Outside those areas, the NDP’s best numbers came from apartment complexes, small row houses or community housing projects.

The 2011 federal election is a totally different picture: the Conservatives winning most of the polls, with the NDP winning almost all its polls in the ‘urban’ part of the riding – and also winning more polls than the Liberals, despite the Grits doing a tad better overall. The race for second shows a pretty stark urban-suburban divide: the NDP placed first or second in the eastern end of the riding (South London, Southcrest, parts of Westmount, Manor Park etc), the Liberals placed second in suburban neighborhoods such as Oakridge, most of Westmount and Byron. The Conservatives, unsurprisingly, did best in the very affluent neighborhoods, generally well in other suburban areas and poorly in South London. However, while the NDP showed to be strongest in urban parts of the riding, its performance in more suburban areas wasn’t all that bad (outside very affluent and solidly Tory polls): again, they tended to do best in suburban areas with apartment complexes, row houses or community housing projects but they also put up some solid numbers – second place even – in more traditionally suburban areas, even ‘cookie-cutter’ new subdivisions.

The provincial Liberal candidate in this race is the story of a star candidate turned awry. The Liberals were excited about having recruited Ken Coran, the former president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation – hey, look at us, the teachers’ unions don’t hate our guts any longer; it would also have made a good symbol for Wynne, breaking free from McGuinty’s anti-union drive in his final year in office. The problem was that the same Ken Coran, just last year, was angrily denouncing the Liberals for Bill 115 and endorsed the Ontario NDP in the Kitchener-Waterloo by-election. Coran’s “star candidacy” quickly turned into a disaster for the Liberals. The Tories nominated their 2011 candidate, Ali Chahbar, a lawyer. The NDP had a fairly prominent candidate as well: Peggy Sattler, a Thames Valley District School Board trustee. The Freedom Party, a small Randian libertarian party, nominated Al Gretzky, the uncle of Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzy and the federal Tories’ 2006 candidate.

The polls show how Coran’s candidacy turned into a disaster for the Liberals: from 30% in February, they collapsed to 15-19% on July 30. The PCs led all polls in the riding, from February until the end. Chahbar led the Grits by 4 (and the NDP by 6) in February, the NDP moved into second by early July, trailing the PCs by 7. They made substantial gains in the final stretch: Campaign (Jul 30) had the NDP down by 3, Forum (Jul 30) down by 2.

Turnout was 38.9%, down from 53% in 2011.

Peggy Sattler (NDP) 41.88% (+20.16%)
Ali Chahbar (PC) 32.74% (+3.26%)
Ken Coran (Liberal) 15.85% (-29.81%)
Al Gretzky (Freedom) 4.96% (+4.36%)
Gary Brown (Green) 4.25% (+1.84%)
Geoffrey Serbee (Libertarian) 0.31%

London West was probably – with Ottawa South – the most surprising result of the night. The NDP’s strong performance was to be expected, given that it was clear that with the Liberal collapse that the race had turned into a two-candidate battle between the NDP and the PCs. What was not expected, however, was the NDP defeating the Tories – thought of as the favourites – by 9 points. A bad result both for the PCs and the pollsters who had predicted a PC win.

Provincial polling in the last few months has been showing that the NDP has been on the upswing throughout southwestern Ontario; I’m not sure if this is due to any regional factors or if it’s something else. The NDP’s big win in the Kitchener-Waterloo by-election showed that, London West (and Windsor Tecumseh) confirmed that – meaning that the NDP gained three seats in SW Ontario since the last provincial election.

For the Tories, a rather disappointing result, especially considering that they were seen as the favourites. Their result, no matter how disappointing it is, doesn’t compare to the Liberals’ result: an unmitigated disaster. Coran’s “star candidacy” turned awry likely further aggravated matters for the Liberals, rather than helping them. By reading the polls, the Liberals had already conceded London West to the PCs or Dippers before polls even opened. Nevertheless, London West is an important swing riding, and one in which the Liberals have no business collapsing to an horrible third with barely 15% of the vote. If the Liberals win such results in ridings like London West outside the 416 and Ottawa, then they’ve lost the election and probably lost official opposition as well.

Ottawa South

Ottawa South (source: Elections Canada)

Ottawa South, as you might have guessed it, covers the southern end of the urbanized core of Ottawa. It includes neighborhoods such as Alta Vista, Riverview, Elmvale Acres, Hunt Club, Greenboro, South Keys, Heron Gate and Blossom Park. The riding also includes two of the main entry points into the city: the airport and the train station.

The seat became vacant on June 12 when former Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty resigned his seat a few months after he stepped down as Premier. McGuinty was Premier of Ontario between 2003 and 2013 and leader of the Ontario Liberal Party since 1996.

Ottawa South is a largely suburban constituency, with a large industrial park in the north of the district. The riding’s median household income in 2005, $60,667, places it in the upper half of Ontario ridings in terms of wealth (40th out 107). That being said, the riding still includes a few pockets of deprivation – the percentage of residents low on income before tax in 2005, 22%, is the 21st highest in the province. Like most of the Ottawa region, residents in this riding tend to be highly educated – 33.2% have a university diploma or degree, which probably places it in the top 20 Ontario ridings by that measure. This being the federal capital, the federal government remains a top employer in this riding like in neighboring ridings: 21.4% of the labour force were employed in public administration, making it – by far – the single largest industry. Furthermore, the NAICS ‘public administration’ category does not cover all fields in which public servants may be employed; so the overall percentage of federal government employees is higher. In contrast, the percentage of the labour force employed in manufacturing (2.7%) or construction (3.8%) is one of the lowest in the entire province.

Ottawa South has the highest visible minority populations outside the GTA – 36.3%. The largest minorities are blacks (10.2% of the total population) and Arabs (9.6%). The riding has the second largest Arab population in Canada, and the largest in Ontario. Most blacks are of African, not Caribbean descent. Indeed, Ottawa South has one of the largest – if not the largest – Somali communities in Canada, making up 3.1% of the total population (overall, 10.2% of the riding’s population claimed African origins). Most Arabs are Lebanese, with 6.3% of the riding’s residents in 2011 claiming Lebanese origins.

Most of Ottawa’s Francophone population lives in Ottawa-Vanier or Ottawa-Orleans. Ottawa South has a small Francophone community, with 12.2% of residents identifying French as their mother tongue. A much larger percentage – 30% – said their mother tongue was a non-official language (Arabic and Somali being, obviously, the top two non-official languages).

In 2005, 59.5% of dwellings were owned.

Ottawa South is, with some exceptions, a largely suburban riding; a mix of post-war suburbs and newer developments, further south. Alta Vista, in the centre-north of the riding, is an older leafy middle/upper middle-class suburban neighborhood with single houses. Located north of Alta Vista, Riverview is slightly less affluent, with some apartment complexes or social housing projects, as well as a larger visible minority population (in parts).

There are pockets of deprivation – mostly consisting of large apartment complexes or social housing projects – scattered throughout the riding. The Heron Gate area, which is nearly 80% non-white, is the poorest part of the riding. There are other low-income areas, notably the Hawthorne Meadows neighborhood located east of Urbandale and Elmvale Acres.

Hunt Club, Greenboro and South Keys are more recent suburban developments, located to the south of the riding and consisting of a mix of single houses or rowhouses. Hunt Club and Greenboro both have a rather large (45-50%) visible minority population, and while most dwellings are owned, it is generally a lower middle-class area.

At the provincial level, what is today included in the riding of Ottawa South was a reliably Conservative seat – the Tories held the seat without interruption between 1948 and 1987. Prior to 1926 (and for quite some time after that, at the federal level), Ottawa South – which was probably sparsely populated countryside back then – was included in Russell, a riding which included solidly Liberal Francophone areas in eastern present-day Ottawa. In the 1985 provincial election, PC MPP Claude Bennett saw his majority (over the Liberals) sharply reduced from 21% to only 4%. In the 1987 Liberal landslide and with Bennett’s retirement, Liberal candidate Dalton McGuinty Sr., a former University of Ottawa lecturer, won handily, with 51% to the PC’s 31%. McGuinty the elder only served a single term – he died of a heart attack in 1990. In the general election that year, his son, Dalton McGuinty Jr., held his father’s seat by a 20 point margin over the NDP and was the only freshman Liberal MPP to win in that ‘Dipperslide’ election. From that point on, McGuinty held on to his seat with similarly large – and remarkably stable – margins in every election. The Liberal vote has since oscillated between 45 and 50%; the PCs, save for 1999 when they managed 42%, generally in the low 30s and the NDP, very weak in the riding, in the high single digits/low double digits. In 2011, McGuinty was reelected with a barely reduced majority, taking 49% to the PC’s 33% – this despite some predictions that he could lose his seat.

At the federal level, the riding of Ottawa South was created in 1987, before the 1988 election. That year, John Manley, a Liberal lawyer, defeated incumbent PC MP Barry Turner (from Ottawa-Carleton), 51% to 35%. Manley went on to hold the seat until his retirement in 2004, winning each year by massive margins. Manley served as Minister of Industry, Minister of Foreign Affairs and even Deputy Prime Minister as one of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s top lieutenants. He was a candidate for the Liberal leadership in 2002 against Chrétien’s longtime rival Paul Martin, but seeing Martin’s inevitable win he dropped out and then retired from politics in 2004. David McGuinty, then-Premier Dalton McGuinty’s brother, holding the seat by a 9% margin over the Tories. In 2006, the Tories put some serious effort into the riding, nominating sponsorship scandal whistle-blower Alan Cutler. Sign of the riding’s remarkably static nature, the Tories only increased their vote share from 35% to 37%, while McGuinty improved his own vote share by a few decimals, winning reelection with a 6.7% majority. In the 2008 election, despite a sizable anti-Liberal swing that year, McGuinty increased his majority to a solid 16.5%, winning just short of 50% to the Tories’ 33%. In the 2011 federal election, McGuinty’s vote fell sharply, from 49.9% to 44%, but largely to the NDP’s benefits, who, with 18%, won their best ever result in Ottawa South. Counter cyclical to the rest of the country but in line with most Ottawa-area ridings, the Tory vote fell by one decimal point.

The Liberals tend to be strong throughout the riding, with the exception of the more exurban/rural southern end of the riding. The Liberals have tended to do best in Alta Vista, a middle-class neighborhood with a large portion of residents employed by the government or in health/education; the Grits have usually managed between 50 and 60% in most polls there. The Liberals also do similarly well in Elmvale Acres, Riverview, Billings Bridge, parts of Riverside Park and Hawthorne Meadows. When the NDP is weak, the Liberals may do tremendously well in Heron Gate, winning upwards of 60-65% of the vote; however, in elections like May 2011, the NDP can do well enough in Heron Gate – and other lower-income apartment complexes or social housing projects – to win a few polls or place a strong second. This was the case in May 2011, when the NDP won or placed a solid second (almost always behind the Liberals) in lower-income polls. In contrast, the NDP does poorly in suburban single house/row house-type neighborhoods, such as Alta Vista, Hunt Club or Greenboro.

The Liberals often do well (40-55%) in Hunt Club, Greenboro, and, to a lesser extent, South Keys. The PCs put up some respectable showings in these neighborhoods, as well as other neighborhoods such as Urbandale or Confederation Heights (or the condos overlooking the Rideau River in the north of the riding). In both the federal and provincial elections in 2011, the only neighborhood the Tories won was Blossom Park, at the far southern end of the riding, and more exurban in nature. The Tories also do very well in a the polls around Macdonald-Cartier International Airport, specifically military housing polls at CFB Uplands.

The Liberals nominated John Fraser, McGuinty’s constituency assistant for 14 years. There’s some significance in that pick, as the Liberals nominated somebody closely tied to McGuinty – and, by extension, his tainted legacy – and Fraser campaigned on his record as McGuinty’s aide (having built up, it seems, a solid reputation, as McGuinty’s local voice in the riding for so long). McGuinty still casts a long shadow over his former riding – in part because the McGuintys are a major ‘clan’ in the riding, with Dalton’s nine siblings; and while he probably isn’t all that popular even in his old riding, it is probably the one riding where voters might be a bit more generous with him than elsewhere. The PCs nominated a little-known defense contractor, Matt Young. The NDP, weak in the riding, nominated probably their strongest possible candidate: the vice-chair of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, Bronwyn Funiciello, whose zone covers Alta Vista Ward (as well as another ward, outside the riding).Everybody’s favourite candidate – and the definition of ‘perennial candidate’ – John Turmel, contested his 78th election since 1979 here.

The early polls out the gates showed a tight race between the Liberals and the PCs, with the latter leading by 3 in an early June poll but then trailing the Grits by 4 in early July. A poll in mid-July showed a statistical tie, with the PCs up 1. However, the Tories surged ahead in the last stretch of the campaign: Forum on July 24 had them up 14; the two July 30 polls showed the PCs up 7 (Campaign) or 16 (Forum); with the NDP low, at 12% and 9% respectively.

Turnout was 40.8%, the highest of all five by-elections, down from 51.2% in 2011:

John Fraser (Liberal) 42.34% (-6.51%)
Matt Young (PC) 38.67% (+5.24%)
Bronwyn Funiciello (NDP) 14.27% (+0.88%)
Taylor Howarth (Green) 3.14% (-0.09%)
Jean-Serge Brisson (Libertarian) 0.06% (+0.04%)
John Redins (Special Needs) 0.29% (-0.24%)
Daniel Post (Ind) 0.26%
David McGruer (Freedom) 0.24%
John Turmel (Paupers) 0.18%

In one of the night’s most surprising results, the Liberals managed to hold Ottawa South with a 3.6% majority. It was also one the worst performance, of all five ridings, by pollsters. The Liberals have to be happy that they held this seat; a loss would have been all the more difficult to swallow because losing McGuinty’s old riding would mark a harsh repudiation of McGuinty and his government in his own riding, and a very poor result for Premier Wynne’s new government. Additionally, Ottawa South is one of the eleven seats still held by the federal Liberals after the May 2011 shipwreck; the provincial Liberals – who are still a stronger machine than the federal Liberals – losing a seat which even their hapless federal counterparts held on to in May 2011 would be extremely bad news and make for some really bad symbolism.

The PCs did well, being able to break out of the low-30s trap they were stuck in since the 2003 Liberal landslide, and also performing better than the federal Tories did in the past four federal elections. Despite low name recognition, Tory candidate Matt Young was successful – but only incompletely so – in riding a wave of dissatisfaction with McGuinty/Liberal governance and the associated scandals.

The Liberals, under McGuinty, built up a very strong GOTV operation/machine in Ottawa South, and that’s probably what made the difference on election day and explains why the Liberals beat the polls. They were able to mobilize people who had voted Liberal in recent elections, and turn them out to the polls – something which, seemingly, the Liberals weren’t as successful in the other four ridings. The relatively high turnout – 40% – is probably the result of that relatively strong Liberal GOTV op.

The NDP will probably be disappointed by their performance. 14.3% isn’t bad – it’s on the upper end of their range in the riding – but it’s still lower than their federal record (18%) and they probably would have expected something better considering that they nominated their strongest possible candidate in Bronwyn Funiciello. Low turnout probably hurt them; turnout tends to be lower in those places, like Heron Gate, where the NDP does best.


Scarborough-Guildwood (source: Elections Canada)

Scarborough-Guildwood covers the south-central portion of Scarborough, a large former municipality in suburban western Toronto. The riding, named after and centered on the neighborhood of Guildwood, also includes West Hill, Scarborough Village, Woburn and Morningside.

The seat became vacant on June 27 when Liberal MPP Margarett Best resigned due to “undisclosed health reasons”. Of the five Liberal MPPs who stepped down in 2013, Best was the only one who wasn’t a member of ex-Premier Dalton McGuinty’s inner circle – she was elected for the first time in 2007, and she was only a minor cabinet minister as Minister of Health Promotion (2007-2011) and Minister of Consumer Services (2011-2013).

Scarborough-Guildwood, like most of the former municipality, is a suburban neighborhood; but not particularly affluent at that. The median household income in 2005, $47,963, made it the ninth poorest riding in Ontario. With nearly 30% of residents low on income before tax (in 2005), it was the fourth riding in Ontario in terms of low-income citizens. Education levels are significantly lower than in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, with 20.4% lacking a high school graduation certificate, although at the other end, 20.6% do have a university diploma or degree. Most of the riding’s labour force work in sales and services (26.1%) or in business/finance/administration (17.5%). Unemployment is quite high, it was 13.2% in the 2011 National Household Survey.

Like most of Scarborough, Scarborough-Guildwood is an extremely ethnically diverse riding. Nearly two-thirds of the riding’s residents (65.8%) are visible minorities, the largest visible minority groups being South Asians (30.6% of the overall population), blacks (14.7%) and Filipinos (7.4%). Nearly 20% of the riding’s population immigrated to Canada after 2001.

Most South Asians in Scarborough and this riding tend to be Tamils from Sri Lanka or India – 27.8% of residents claimed Tamil, Sri Lankan or East Indian ancestry; and 7.5% claimed Tamil as their mother tongue. Most blacks are from the Caribbean (Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago) or Guyana.

There doesn’t seem to be huge differences, either income-wise or demographically, between the various neighborhoods in the riding. The one exception might be Guildwood, which is more affluent and whiter than other parts of the riding, but not dramatically more so. Housing in the riding is split between apartment buildings (43% of dwellings) and single-detached homes (35.6%), about nine in ten of dwellings were built more than 20 years ago. In 2005, 55.6% of dwellings were owned.

There are several large apartment complexes, which tend to be poorer and more ethnically diverse, concentrated along the main thoroughfares – Lawrence Avenue, Markham Road, Eglinton Avenue, Kingston Road or the Mornelle Crescent area in Morningside.

The riding’s strong Liberal lean only dates back to the 1990s, at most. Provincially, the Liberals held the much more extensive riding which included all of present-day Scarborough-Guildwood between 1867 and 1905, but the Conservatives went on to hold the seat – with only three one-term interruptions, between 1905 and 1985. The CCF’s Agnes Macphail, who had been Canada’s first woman MP in 1921, won the riding of York East in 1943 and again in 1948. Liberal Timothy Reid won the seat from the PCs in 1967, but the Tories regained it in 1971 and held it until David Peterson’s Liberals formed government in 1985. Up until the 1970s, Scarborough was a largely white/English middle-class post-war suburban area, with small pockets of deprivation or immigration.

The NDP won the riding of Scarborough East in their 1990 landslide, although only narrowly over the Liberals. In 1995, PC candidate Steve Gilchrist handily won the seat, taking nearly 56% of the vote. Gilchrist, who was reelected with a reduced majority in 1999, briefly served as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in Mike Harris’ cabinet, and became most famous for spearheading the controversial forced amalgamation of Hamilton, Ottawa and Sudbury. Within a few months, he was forced to resign from cabinet following a scandal of some kind. He was defeated in a landslide by Liberal candidate Mary Anne Chambers in 2003, taking only 34% of the vote to the Liberals’ 51.5%. Chambers served only one term and was succeeded in 2007 by Margarett Best, who held the seat with a 14.5% majority in 2007 and an even larger 20% majority in 2011.

Federally, the riding of Scarborough-Guildwood (and before that, Scarborough East, about three-fifths of which were redistributed to create the current riding in 2003) has been held by the Liberals since 1993, and by Liberal MP John McKay since 1997. Prior to that, the seat was closely disputed between Liberals and Tories, with a small edge to the former. After 1993, rising immigration and the changing demographic character of Scarborough helped the Liberals, who came to dominate Scarborough-Guildwood and its neighbours with huge majorities – a 44% majority in 2000, and a still hefty 20% majority in 2008. The 2011 federal election marked a sea change in the riding’s politics: McKay was reelected with a tiny 1.8% (691 vote) margin over the Tories, taking 36.2% to 34.4% for the Tories and a solid 26.5% for the NDP.

The poll-by-poll results of the October 2011 provincial election do not show any clear-cut political divides within the riding: the Liberals won almost all polls, while the Tories’ few polls were scattered throughout the riding.

The May 2011 federal election shows a much closer race – and also a rather messy map, with ‘random’ patches of blue, red and orange scattered across the riding. That being said, some kind of patterns can be worked out. The Liberals and the NDP clearly dominated apartment polls, which are concentrated along the main roads or in large complexes in Morningside (near the UofT-Scarborough uni campus) or in the Woburn Park area. Most of the NDP’s polls, for examples, are either apartment buildings or polling stations covering large apartment complexes. In October 2011, the Liberals’ majorities were again higher in apartment polls.  Similarly, the Liberals did better in apartment polls or in neighborhoods – such as Golfdale Gardens, which was the only solidly Liberal cluster in the riding in May 2011 – where most houses are rented rather than owned. Apartment polls, as aforementioned, tend to be poorer and have a larger visible minority population. The Liberals also did well in single-house polls across the riding, specifically those with a large South Asian or black population. In contrast, Tory support is higher in more leafy, suburban and single-house neighborhoods, such as parts of West Hill, Morningside or Curran Hall.

That being said, the picture (from the federal election) remains all quite patchy. With a few isolated exceptions, neither the Tories nor the Liberals thoroughly dominated any one part of the riding, and the Liberals managed to win scattered polls in more affluent middle-class neighborhoods, including parts of Guildwood which are whiter (and, historically, more solidly Tory) and Scarborough Village, which is – in parts – a tad more affluent.

The Liberals nominated Mitzie Hunter, a community activist and the CEO of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance. Like the past two Liberal MPPs – Hunter was born in Jamaica and immigrated to Canada in her youth. The PCs nominated Ken Kirupa, a realtor and Sri Lankan immigrant. While both the Grits and the Tories went for locals with ethnic ties, the NDP nominated an ‘outsider’ star candidate – Adam Giambrone, the former Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, a former president of the federal NDP and a former Toronto city councillor (for Davenport) between 2003 and 2010. Giambrone was forced to drop out of the 2010 mayoral election after a sex scandal, which also cut short his career in municipal politics. His nomination in Scarborough-Guildwood was somewhat controversial, the local community activist he defeated threatened a legal challenge after alleging that 12 of the 32 who voted at the nomination meeting might not have been eligible to vote under NDP rules.

Polling throughout the short campaign showed a close race between the Liberals and the PCs, with the NDP a solid third. In the last two polls published – again on July 30 by Forum and Campaign – the Liberals by 7 and 5 points respectively, with the NDP at 27% and 24%.

Turnout was 36.2%, down from 47.7% in 2011.

Mitzie Hunter (Liberal) 35.83% (-13.10%)
Ken Kirupa (PC) 30.79% (+2.14%)
Adam Giambrone (NDP) 28.37% (+8.95%)
Nick Leeson (Green) 2.15% (+0.86%)
Jim Hamilton (Ind) 0.79%
Danish Ahmed (Special Needs) 0.75%
Heath Thomas (Libertarian) 0.48% (-0.8%)
Raphael Rosch (Family Coalition) 0.42%
Matthew Oliver (Freedom) 0.32% (-0.1%)
Bill Rawdah (People’s) 0.1%

Scarborough-Guildwood was seen as the Liberals’ best shot at holding on to one of their five seats up for grabs, and they did. The polls, for a change, were almost spot on – the Liberals held the seat by a 5% margin, which is obviously a much reduced majority compared to Best’s 20% majority in October 2011. Unlike in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, the main winner in Scarborough-Guildwood was the NDP, not the PCs. Adam Giambrone, a strong candidate for an increasingly popular party, won the NDP’s best result in any election – federal or provincial – since 1990. Giambrone finds his political career rehabilitated, and we should probably count on him to return as a top NDP candidate in a future provincial or federal election. Additionally, this result is more confirmation that the NDP is an increasingly powerful actor in Scarborough, something which we saw in 2011 (the NDP picked up heavily Tamil Scarborough-Rouge River by a wide margin with a Tamil candidate in May 2011, and came very close to upsetting the Liberals there again in October 2011 with another Tamil candidate). Traditionally fairly weak in Scarborough, particularly with historically Liberal visible minority voters, the NDP – at both levels – has made significant inroads, notably with South Asian voters.

While the Liberals can take comfort in that they held the seat and that the Tories’ showing was nothing spectacular, they should beware that the NDP has been confirmed as a serious threat to some of their seats in Scarborough, which was an impregnable Liberal fortress until 2011.


Windsor-Tecumseh (source: Elections Canada)

Windsor-Tecumseh basically covers the eastern half of the city of Windsor, as well as the entirety of the neighboring suburban town of Tecumseh. Within Windsor, the riding includes Walkerville, East Windsor, Riverside, Forest Glade and parts of Fontainebleau.

The seat became vacant on February 14 when incumbent Liberal MPP Dwight Duncan resigned his seat. Duncan, first elected to the Ontario legislature in 1995 and an unsuccesful candidate for the party’s leadership in 1996, served in several important cabinet positions in McGuinty’s cabinets: energy (2003-2005, 2006-2007) and finance (2005-2006, 2007-2013). Originally seen as a frontrunner for the Liberal leadership after McGuinty’s resignation, Duncan chose to retire from provincial politics after Wynne’s victory.

Windsor-Tecumseh is a mixed urban and suburban riding. The riding’s median household income in 2005 was $58,189, not particularly affluent but still not all that poor – additionally, only 13.4% of residents in 2005 were low income (before tax). I would, however, expect 2011 numbers (which come out on August 14) to show a significant drop in the median HH income in this riding; with the recession, income levels have dropped pretty sharply in Windsor.

Education levels are similarly average: 31.7% of Windsor-Tecumseh’s residents highest qualification is a high school diploma – it is one of the province’s top ridings in terms of residents with a HS diploma as their top qualification. 17.5% have no diploma, and, at the other end, 17.6% of residents have a university diploma or degree.

Windsor is a major industrial city, located across the border from Detroit. Like Detroit, Windsor’s economy has long been driven by the auto manufacturing industry (awful pun) – American car manufacturers such as Ford and Chrysler have manufactured cars or car parts across the border in Canada for decades now. The 1965 Auto Pact between the US and Canada, which removed tariffs on automobiles and automotive parts, was a major boon for Windsor’s auto industry, creating many new blue collar jobs as American manufacturers set up branch plants to produce generic car models or provide auto parts. Although job loses in the auto manufacturing sector, particularly in the recent recession, have hurt Windsor’s economy and given it a somewhat bad reputation elsewhere in the country as “Ontario’s armpit”, manufacturing remains the top industry in the city. In 2011, 17.5% of Windsor-Tecumseh’s labour force was employed in manufacturing, one of the highest percentages in Canada. In 2006, manufacturing was even more important – it employed 24.9% of the riding’s labour force. Other major industries in the riding include healthcare and social assistance (12.2%), retail trade (11%) and educational services (7.4%). The leading occupations, in 2011, were sales and services (26.4%), ‘trades, transport and equipment operators’ (13.3%), business/finance/administration (13.3%). Manufacturing and utilities occupations, which employed over 14% in 2006, employed only 9.6% in 2011.

The riding has a 13.2% visible minority population, the leading groups being blacks and Arabs. The city’s ethnolinguistic mix and background is rather interesting. The Windsor area has a large population with French ancestry; the French first settled the area in 1749 and the city’s French heritage is still perceptible in parts. 25.7% of the riding’s residents claimed French origins in 2011, although only 3.6% of the riding’s population is Francophone. ‘Canadian’ (25.6%), English (22.9%) and Irish (14.9%) were the next three leading ancestries in 2011.

There’s a fairly important split between the more ‘urban’ western end of the riding and the more suburban neighborhoods of Windsor as well as the town of Tecumseh. Walkerville, located just east of downtown Windsor (which is in Windsor West for electoral purposes), is an urban neighborhood and former ‘company town’ founded in 1890 by whisky distiller Hiram Walker. Ford opened its first factory there in 1904, and the Windsor engine plant is located just outside Walkerville, in East Windsor (and the Chrysler plant is nearby as well). Walkerville is an urban neighborhood, with a mix of old bungalows and larger houses in leafy streets. It has some pockets of deprivation and incomes are fairly low; . East Windsor, newer and more residential in nature, includes a large Ford plant. Most houses are bungalows, although there are large social housing projects in the area as well. Forest Glade, located in the southeast of the city of Windsor, is a post-war (1960s-1970s) planned community/suburb, largely lower middle/middle-class.

Riverside is a large post-war (1950s) neighborhood, which includes some of the most expensive homes in Windsor, concentrated along the waterfront (which also has condo towers now) or in leafy backstreets; although it also includes some less expensive bungalow-type suburban properties and a few social housing projects. East Riverside, on the outskirts of the city, is a very recent suburban development, of the cookie-cutter type.

Saint Clair Beach, at the eastern extremity of Windsor-Tecumseh, is the most affluent in the riding and certainly one of the most affluent in Essex County as a whole. It includes golf courses, a gated community and sprawling suburban houses.

The Windsor area, now an NDP stronghold federally, was traditionally disputed between the Liberals and the NDP, with an edge to the former – especially in federal elections. The area’s French Catholic heritage has given it a strong Liberal tradition, while the area’s industrial makeup and the strength of unions – notably the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) has given the NDP a strong base since the 1960s/1970s.

Provincially, like London West, the riding is a recent creation – it dates back to 1999, when Mike Harris compacted 130 provincial ridings into 103, which line up – with a few exceptions (in northern Ontario) with federal ridings. Before that, it was divided between Windsor-Riverside, which included the eastern end of the current riding centered around, I believe, Riverside and parts of Tecumseh; and Windsor-Walkerville, which included the western end of the current riding centered around Walkerville. Windsor-Riverside was held by the NDP without interruption between 1967 and 1999. Windsor-Walkerville, in contrast, was a Liberal stronghold: the Liberals held it continunously between 1959 and 1990 and Dwight Duncan regained it from the NDP in 1995. The 1999 election featured a fight between two incumbents: Dwight Duncan, the Liberal from Windsor-Walkerville; and Wayne Lessard, the NDP MPP from Windsor-Riverside (he had represented Windsor-Walkerville between 1990 and 1995 and returned to the legislature following a 1997 by-election in Windsor-Riverside). Duncan defeated Lessard 45% to 34%, and went on to win three more terms by comfortable margins. Duncan won by 26 in 2003 and by 25 in 2007. In 2011, he was reelected with a reduced 10 point majority, 42.9% to the NDP’s 32.8%. Duncan clearly built up a solid personal vote in the riding, winning voters which voted NDP federally since 2000/2004. The PCs have been irrelevant in the riding for decades now; the last time they placed second was in 1985 in both former ridings.

Federally, the NDP’s Joe Comartin, has held the riding since 2000. Having lost a 1999 by-election to the Liberals by only 91 votes, he returned to defeat the Liberals by 401 votes in the 2000 election, a bright spot in an otherwise bleak year for the NDP. Since then, the Liberal vote has collapsed – from 34% in 2004 to 13% in 2011. In this regards, the federal Tories have been much more successful at coalescing anti-NDP voters than their provincial counterparts. Comartin won by 16 points in 2011 and by an even wider 25 points in 2008, so the seat is an NDP fortress for the foreseeable future. However, the Tories did manage to poll an excellent 33.6% in 2011. However, the NDP’s success federally is more recent – until 1984, the seat was a Liberal stronghold. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin’s father, Paul Martin Sr, who was a prominent Liberal cabinet minister and leadership contender at one point, represented the area between 1935 and 1968 and the Liberals continued to hold the seat until 1984, when the NDP won it. The Liberals defeated the incumbent Dipper MP by 34 points in 1993 but held it by a much tighter 5.5% in 1997.

The October 2011 provincial election results showed an interesting geographic division between the Liberals and the NDP. The NDP won heavily in East Windsor, and also carried the poorer parts of Walkerville and Riverside, including social housing projects. The Liberals, who won the election by 10 points, won the bulk of Riverside and Forest Glade by varying margins, doing best in new subdivisions or the affluent parts on the waterfront. Similarly, the Liberals won the more upscale parts of Walkerville. The NDP’s worst results came from, you might have guessed, St. Clair Beach.

The 2011 federal election is, obviously, a rather different. Joe Comartin won the vast majority of polls in Windsor-Tecumseh, putting up huge margins in East Windsor and other traditional NDP strongholds, but basically doing well across the riding, including most of Riverside and Forest Glade. The Conservatives won by big margins in St. Clair Beach, but besides that they only won a few of the newer suburban subdivisions in East Riverside and a few waterfront polls scattered throughout Riverside. The 2000 federal election, however, has a geography very similar to that of the October 2011 vote.

The NDP went into this race as the favourites. They had, by far, the strongest candidate of the three parties: Percy Hatfield, a Windsor city councillor representing Ward 7, which East Riverside and Forest Glade, two neighborhoods where the NDP struggles in competitive races. The Liberal candidate was Jeewin Gill, apparently a businessman/’community leader’ married to a CAW member. In general, this seems to indicate that the Liberals conceded the race long ago. Without Dwight Duncan, the Liberals are at a major disadvantage against the NDP here. The only strong candidate the Liberals could have gotten was Sandra Pupatello, who held Windsor West between 1999 and 2011. But after losing the Liberal leadership, she said that she had no interest in seeking elected office again, despite Wynne’s urging. The PCs renominated their 2011 candidate Robert de Verteuil, an automotive consultant.

The polls confirmed that this was a NDP shoe-in. Although the Liberals were at 32%, 10 points behind the NDP, in a poll back in early February, when the race settled down with the three candidates in July, the NDP maintained a huge leader, over 50% and leading the PCs and/or Liberals by about 30 points. The last polls showed the PCs in second with between 22% and 28%, and the Liberals in third with 16% or 12%.

Turnout was 30.1%, down from 44.7% in 2011:

Percy Hatfield (NDP) 61.31% (+28.47%)
Robert de Verteuil (PC) 20.12% (-0.7%)
Jeewen Gill (Liberal) 11.94% (-30.89%)
Adam Wright (Green) 3.65% (+1.42%)
Dan Dominato (Libertarian) 1.55% (+0.28%)
Lee Watson (Family Coalition) 0.94%
Andrew Brannan (Freedom) 0.48%

Unsurprisingly, the NDP picked up Windsor-Tecumseh with a phenomenal 41% majority over the Tories. The NDP had been the overwhelming favourites to win, and the race was uninteresting compared to the other four, much closer, contests, but such a huge majority was even bigger than expected. The PCs did poorly, underperforming their polling numbers, and ending up roughly with the same paltry result they had gotten in October 2011. Finally, the Liberals were the biggest losers of the night – hell, they got even less than what the federal Liberals had won in May 2011! Obviously without Duncan (or Pupatello), the Liberals had little to no chance of holding this riding in a by-election anyway, but still, 12%?

While one might argue that the NDP might face a tougher fight to hold on to their big gains in Kitchener-Waterloo and London West, there’s no doubt that this seat will be established as an NDP stronghold for years and years to come – and there’s little doubt that the NDP will be able to pick up Windsor West, the last holdout of Windsor-area Liberal-ism in the next provincial election. The Liberals have, as far as I know, no ‘star candidate’ who could threaten the NDP here now.


The major winner of these five by-elections was the NDP, no question. The NDP not only won Windsor-Tecumseh, as widely expected, but also managed a surprise gain in London West (with a surprisingly large margin to boot). To cap it off, the NDP won a very strong third place in Scarborough-Guildwood, which confirms that they’re an ever-more important force in Scarborough, a direct threat to the provincial Liberals’ fledgling hegemony in that area.

Their main disappointments are Etobicoke-Lakeshore (Etobs for short) and Ottawa South. Etobs isn’t surprising – this is, as I mentioned above, another of those by-elections which turn into closely fought contests between the top two parties in that riding, effectively squeezing out whoever is the third party. A great example is the 2010 federal by-election in Vaughan: it became a hard fought battle between a Tory star candidate (who eventually won) and a fledgling Liberal Party trying hard to save a former Liberal stronghold. In the process, the NDP, weak in the riding, collapsed from 9.6% to 1.7% while the Tories and Liberals both won in the high 40s. In the 2011 federal election, when the Liberals just collapsed and the Conservatives won handily, the NDP vote jumped back up to 11.6%. Etobs was the same thing: two strong candidates fighting it out, with the NDP being irrelevant in all this.

Ottawa South is more disappointing. The NDP knew it never had a shot there and probably doesn’t have a shot unless they win a 1990-landslide all over again (and even then); but they ran their strongest possible candidate and they certainly would have expected that with a strong candidate they could come close/beat the 18% record set by the federal NDP in 2011. That wasn’t the case.

The NDP’s strong performance isn’t all that surprising. At a micro level, they ran strong candidates with fairly strong local ties (through local politics or school boards) in all ridings (except perhaps in Etobs). The Liberals’ unpopularity with teachers’ unions since 2011-2012 also guarantees the NDP a motivated base of supporters and activists throughout the province. Provincially, the NDP remains in a very favourable position. NDP leader Andrea Horwath has been the most popular of all three leaders for quite some time, coming off as a likable and pragmatic politician. That being said, she’s received criticism from various quarters for effectively propping up the Liberals two budgets in a row.

For the time being, however, the NDP are in a very strong position. They have a popular leader, an energized and motivated base and a lot of voters in the middle who like them best for the time being. The NDP can both claim to be a progressive alternative for dissatisfied left-Liberal voters, and “the lesser of three evils” to other voters. They can appear more pragmatic than the PCs because they didn’t reject the budgets out of hand and got some form of compromise with the Liberals on the budgets; they’re also not tainted by damaging scandals like the Liberals and not associated with a divisive former Premier (Mike Harris) like the PCs. The NDP will need a lot more to be able to win the next election, but the prospect of the NDP actually winning the election is now a very serious one.

The PCs had mixed results, and by failing to live up to expectations (created by inaccurate polling, to be fair), they’ve been identified by a lot of commentators as effective ‘losers’ in this string of by-elections. The PCs – who were seen as the favourites in three of the five seats – ended up winning only one of them, and a good case could be made that they only won that seat because they had a very strong candidate. The PCs ran weaker candidates in London West and Ottawa South, the other two ridings were they were thought of as favourites. They banked on the Liberal government’s unpopularity and voters’ disgust with Liberal governance and the Liberal scandals to ride a wave of opposition in those seats, notwithstanding their rather weak candidates with lower name recognition.

Nevertheless, the PCs can certainly be happy with their victory in Etobs. The PCs have been shut out of the city of Toronto (the 416) since the 2003 McGuinty landslide, and they did very poorly in most urban Toronto ridings in the 2011 election, suffering from a perception that Tim Hudak was too right-wing. With the same leader, they showed that they could still be competitive to the point of winning within the 416, and that can only be good news for them. It remains to be seen, however, if their win in Etobs is largely the result of a strong, local candidate or if the the PCs are truly on the upswing in the 416 (Scarborough-Guildwood results would, however, tend to disprove that idea).

Besides, even though the PCs did poorly and only increased their popular vote results by a few points at best outside of Etobs, they can argue (and they would be correct, in good part) that just gaining those ‘few points’ province-wide in the next provincial election would be enough for them to gain enough seats to form government. However, if the PCs are to be forming government, they would certainly need to win seats like London West across the province. These by-elections kind of show that they’re still unable to do that.

The PCs poor showing has led to a new round of leadership speculation about Tim Hudak. Hudak didn’t do a very good job in the 2011 election – he could have won that election, but largely through his own poorly-managed and orchestrated campaign, he lost although he did significantly improve on the Tories’ horrible 2003 and 2007 results. Those improvements allowed him to survive a leadership review in 2012 with 79% approval.

However, the poor by-election results has reopened rumblings. Many argue that these results, along with Kitchener-Waterloo/Vaughan in 2012 and the 2011 election, show that Hudak doesn’t have what it takes to win: he’s too conservative for some (too close to Mike Harris/the Common Sense Revolution and that controversial legacy), others say that, alas, he doesn’t have Harris’ political acumen and charisma. Indeed, it is true that Hudak has had trouble communicating his party’s message since 2011, and the election results show that. He doesn’t seem to be able to connect with voters. Even by continuously pounding on the Liberals for the corruption and perceived mismanagement/incompetence, he hasn’t been able to hit a chord with voters outside the Tory base.

Ten London-based PC members have apparently signed a petition asking for an amendment to party bylaws to allow for a leadership review this year; they claim that they’re supported by a few PC MPPs – Frank Klees and the very conservative ‘maverick’ Randy Hillier have openly supported those ‘grassroots’ efforts to force a leadership review. Both of them ran in the 2009 PC leadership convention against Hudak. Neither is openly hostile to Hudak’s leadership, but they argue that having an impromptu leadership review now would defuse tensions. Hudak has rejected all calls for a leadership review, spinning the by-election results by playing up the win in Etobs and downplaying the NDP’s upset over his party in London West as the result of ‘union muscle’. Hudak, despite some grassroots rumblings, does remain in a fairly solid position as leader. It’s very unlikely that he’ll be toppled by the malcontents within the PCs. He retains strong support within the PC caucus, and even from federal Tory MPs from the province (such as foreign minister John Baird).

It’s clear that the big losers are the Liberals. They can take solace in the fact that they won two instead of one or even zero of the five ridings up, and that the official opposition – the PCs – still fell flat on their faces, in large part. Indeed, the Liberals did manage to beat the extremely low expectations set for them. They held Ottawa South, hence escaping a very symbolic defeat in their longtime leaders’ home turf. They did fairly ‘well’ in both 416 ridings, although they lost one to the PCs.

Nevertheless, the Liberals remain the big losers of the by-elections. It’s a bad start for Kathleen Wynne’s government, showing that voters haven’t really warmed up to her after souring on McGuinty, and that voters haven’t dissociated her government from McGuinty’s government. They lost three ridings, and they placed extremely poor thirds in two of those ridings (even if they had won both of them by over 10 points in 2011). Basically, on these by-election results, we could assume that the Liberals are dropping like flies outside of Ottawa and the 416/GTA. If they place third with such horrible numbers throughout SW Ontario (and probably northern Ontario and most of central/eastern Ontario), especially in must-win ridings like London West, then they’ve almost certainly lost the next election and probably lost official opposition as well. To be fair, however, the Liberals wrote off Windsor-Tecumseh nearly from the get-go and they realized in July that their ‘star candidate’ Ken Coran was a shipwreck and they conceded that race too, throwing it all on the two 416 ridings and Ottawa South.

Furthermore, even if the Liberal results in Etobs and Scarborough were not bad, comparatively, they face a strong threat from both the PCs and NDP in their ‘Toronto fortress’. If the PCs can repeat their Etobs results elsewhere in the 416 (and 905), then they would pick up seats like York Centre, Willowdale, Etobs Centre or Eglinton-Lawrence. If the NDP can repeat their Scarborough-Guildwood performance, they could pick up seats like York South-Weston, Scarborough-Rouge River and Scarborough-Southwest. Even the Liberals’ so-called Toronto fortress is showing some pretty fatal cracks on these by-election numbers.

Part of this is of the Liberals’ own making. After all, they’re the ones in government – and they’ve been there for ten years, and even Liberal supporters are forced to admit that, especially since 2011, their party has had a big share of serious, damaging scandals and governance screw-ups. Wynne hasn’t been able to shift focus away from those scandals either. On the other hand, they’ve been also been dragged down by the knock-on effects of the recession and Ontario’s economic woes, and by inevitable voter fatigue after ten years in government.

The Liberals certainly face a huge uphill battle in the next election, which will probably be sometime in 2014. Winning a fourth term, which hasn’t been done since the bygone days of the Big Blue Machine, will be extremely tough. Scandals, economic woes, a strong sense that the Liberals have had too many screw-ups in government and voter fatigue will drag down the Liberals like never before. Even with a new face at the helm, it will hard to resist what is perhaps inevitable after ten years in power. That being said, the provincial Liberals are not in the same dire straits as their federal counterparts were in back in 2011. Dalton McGuinty was supposed to lose the 2011 election, and spring/summer polling in 2011 was particularly brutal for the Liberals. Yet, he defied the odds and won, although with a much reduced mandate.

Besides, by-elections are what they are – by-elections. Especially by-elections in early August. Low turnout creates different dynamics and forces than in regular general elections, where turnout is at least a bit higher (considering how low even general election turnout has been as of late). Those more likely to vote in by-elections often tend to be particularly worked up voters eager to vote with their middle fingers and send a mid-term message to the government of the day. While by-elections still remain good predictor of popular opinion between elections, they’re only imperfect guides.

For example, Pierre Trudeau’s federal Liberal government scheduled no less than fifteen by-elections on the same day in October 1978, a few months before the May 1979 federal election. His government being quite unpopular, the Liberals lost all but one of the seven constituencies out of those 15 which they held (and gained one, in Quebec). The PCs gained all but one of those seven lost seats. One might have thought that the Liberals would lose the 1979 federal election in a landslide. They lost, but it was close (thanks to a strong campaign and a weak PC leader); Joe Clark’s PCs only won a minority government, infamously ill-fated.

The table below shows the results of August 1st’ five by-elections – looking at raw votes, not percentages. Looking only at percentages in by-elections can be misleading because of significantly lower turnout.

Table 1: Results of the August 1, 2013 Ontario provincial by-elections by raw votes and turnout

byelections ON Aug 1 2013

This alternative look at the results allows us to nuance our conclusions a bit. The NDP are the clear winners here, given that they increased their raw vote in 3/5 ridings despite much lower turnout in all five ridings. In London West, for example, although turnout was 12.7k votes lower than in 2011, the NDP gained over 4,700 votes from their performance in the 2011 election.

The chart also shows that the Greens had a not a too-shabby night on the whole. They’re not a relevant force, and they didn’t seem to put much attention (or resources) on any of the five by-elections considering that none of these ridings (except perhaps London West) are promising for the Greens. They likely managed to gain a few hundred votes from 2011 Liberal voters. I’m not sure if the Ontario Greens have adopted the federal party and the BC Greens’ rather lucrative micro-targeting strategy which is, with FPTP, their best shot at winning seats (although not their best shot at maximizing their popular vote share throughout the province).

The chart also shows that the PCs did indeed have a mediocre night, at best. They only gained votes in one riding, Etobs. Elsewhere, even if their popular vote went up in three of those four ridings, they lost over 1,000 votes from their 2011 results. In London West, the PCs lost over 2,400 votes despite increasing their percentage by 3.3%. Therefore, with the exception of Etobs where PC star candidate Doug Holyday was likely able to directly win (‘switch over’) a good number of 2011 Liberal voters (this isn’t surprising – Etobs has more elastic voting patterns, and a lot of middle-class suburbanites switch their votes between Tories and Grits on a regular basis – after all, Rob Ford certainly won a good number of provincial Liberal voters in Etobs and elsewhere in the city in 2010!), the PCs most likely held on to their base in the other ridings. Of course, it’s impossible to prove this – it’s quite possible that a lot of 2011 PC voters stayed home, partially compensated by some Liberal malcontents voting PC, although I don’t think such behaviour was massive in these five by-elections.

We didn’t need this chart to tell us that the Liberals were the major losers. They bled a huge amount of votes in all five ridings, losing the least in the two seats they held and losing the most in London West and Windsor-Tecumseh. However, from this chart and comparing Liberal loses to gain/loses by the PCs/NDP and fall in turnout, we can come to a tentative conclusion that the Liberals lost not so much because their voters directly went to the PCs or NDP, but rather because they stayed home. The Liberals obviously lost some 2011 supporters to the PCs in Etobs and to the NDP in London West, Windsor-Tecumseh and Scarborough-Guildwood.

An unpopular party’s voters opting to stay home in a by-election or other off-year/mid-term election is not uniquely Canadian nor even remotely surprising. It is also slightly less fatal than an unpopular party’s voters opting to turn out for another party in a a by-election or off-year/mid-term ballot; they can always be re-motivated to show up when stakes are high in the regular election. They’re dissatisfied with their party of choice, but the other parties haven’t convinced them enough to ditch their old party for them instead, or they’re not ready (or dissatisfied enough) to ditch their former partisan home.

Again, correlation isn’t causation and I don’t want to firmly conclude that Liberal voters stayed home en masse and just didn’t vote for other parties. There’s no way for me to find out who exactly turned out and who didn’t, and who those ‘lost voters’ had voted for in 2011. Besides, five ridings isn’t close to being a scientifically valid sample. But, just for kicks, there’s a 0.92 correlation (very strong) between Liberal vote loses and fall in turnout from 2011.

Regardless, these mid-summer by-elections were exciting, interesting and still pretty relevant to Ontarian provincial politics. And congratulations for making it all the way through this post.

Zimbabwe 2013

Presidential and parliamentary elections were held in Zimbabwe on July 31, 2013.

The System (in theory)

The President of Zimbabwe, who is the head of state, is directly elected to serve a five-year term, which is now renewable only once. Zimbabwean voters approved a new constitution in March 2013, which limits executive powers, notably restricting the President to two-consecutive terms (although it does not have retrospective effect) and curtailing his unfettered ability to appoint senators, governors or members of the commission overseeing judicial appointments (which he will continue to appoint). Each presidential candidate nominates two persons to serve as Vice Presidents.

After a power-sharing agreement concluded after the 2008 election, the office of Prime Minister – abolished in 1987 – was recreated, and granted some powers as head of government, although the President remained the most important figure. As in Kenya, the position was only temporary and it has been abolished in the new constitution.

The Parliament of Zimbabwe is bicameral, made up of the lower house – the National Assembly – and the upper house – the Senate. The National Assembly is made up of 210 members directly elected in single-member constituencies by FPTP. Under the new constitution approved in 2013, the first two legislatures after the passage of said constitution will include an additional 60 women members, six from each province, elected by proportional representation on the basis of votes cast for members of the National Assembly.

The Senate is composed of 80 senators: 60 are elected by proportional representation based on votes cast for members of the National Assembly, with each of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces returning six senators; 16 are chiefs, with Zimbabwe’s 8 non-metropolitan provinces electing 2 chiefs; two are elected to represent persons with disabilities; finally, the President and Vice President of the Council of Chiefs are ex-officio members.

Both houses have the power to initiate and consider/reject legislation, except for money bills which may only originate in the lower house. After legislation is passed by both houses, the President must assent to it and sign it, or, if does not, he refers it back to Parliament with an explanation. The Parliament may reconsider the bill to accommodate the President’s reservations, or pass it again with a two-thirds majority. If the Presidents once again refuses to assent to the bill, he refers it to the Constitutional Court.

The Parliament, with a two-thirds majority in both houses, may vote a motion of no-confidence in the cabinet, which leads to the cabinet’s resignation and the dissolution of Parliament.

In practice, democracy and rule of law has been seriously eroded and undermined by Zimbabwe’s strongman President, Robert Mugabe.

Historical background

Zimbabwe’s current politics and contentious political issues almost all have deep historical roots, and a full understanding of Zimbabwean contemporary politics would be incomplete without an understanding of its historical roots.

Zimbabwe, which was known as Southern Rhodesia (or Rhodesia) until full independence in 1980, came under British rule in the late nineteenth century. Until 1923, Southern Rhodesia was under “company rule” – administered by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Corporation. Originally intended primarily for gold mining, it was soon discovered that mining alone could not sustain Southern Rhodesia, therefore the Company started actively encouraging white immigration, attracted by the availability of tracts of prime farmland that could be purchased at a low cost. A mindset of racial superiority and policies of racial segregation quickly set in. Like in South Africa, the black majority was moved to “native reserves” – dispersed and isolated parcels of land with low rainfall amounts – which doubled up as reservoirs of cheap labour for white settlers.

By the 1920s, Southern Rhodesia became a rather profitable colony and the colony’s infrastructure – railways, new towns, mines – developed rapidly during this period, although with little to no benefit for the black majority. The white population of the territory increased from some 12.5k in 1904 to 38.2k in 1927; Southern Rhodesia (like South Africa and Kenya, but unlike Northern Rhodesia (Zambia)) therefore developed a large and politically influential white settler population. However, the white population in Southern Rhodesia never surpassed 10% of the population, peaking at 8% in 1960; blacks never constituted less than 90% of the population.

In the 1920s, white settlers, whose influence in the Legislative Council had increased considerably, began clamoring for responsible government. The Company, which was struggling to extract profits from the colony for a variety of reasons, eventually bowed down and, in a 1922 referendum, white voters rejected union with South Africa and approved responsible government. In 1923, Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing colony, something of a ‘semi-dominion’, with a responsible government having legislative autonomy over internal affairs, although Britain still controlled foreign affairs, railways, mining revenues, constitutional amendments and ‘native affairs’. Franchise in elections to the Legislative Assembly, while officially ‘non-racial’, effectively excluded the vast majority of the non-white population because voting rights were conditioned to a certain income and property ownership (similar to the Cape Qualified Franchise in the Cape Province in South Africa).

Segregationist land and social policies were passed in the 1930s, restricting blacks’ access to certain jobs while institutionalizing the racial division of land. Similarly to South Africa’s ‘petty apartheid’ laws, blacks were strictly segregated from whites in public offices and amenities. The Land Apportionment Act of 1930 banned blacks from owning property outside the barren reserves, and the Rhodesian government, over 20 years, expelled over 67,000 blacks from their lands and forcibly moved them to reserves. Under the 1930 law, 51% of the land was owned by whites – barely 5% of the population. Similarly to South Africa, the reserves covered unproductive land which was isolated from the main means of communications.

Large scale white immigration to Rhodesia began after the Second World War, peaking at 223,000 (7% of the population) in 1960. Immigrants came from the UK (former British servicemen), eastern Europe and many whites from other African countries which were becoming independent – Kenya, Zambia but also non-British colonies such as Algeria, the Congo or Portuguese colonies (Angola, Mozambique). Rhodesia became something of a haven for white people ‘fleeing’ decolonization elsewhere in Africa or Asia (British India).

The ‘native reserves’ quickly become overpopulated, and the situation was only aggravated when land was cleared to make way for new white immigrants. The Southern Rhodesian government blamed the Africans for the situation on the reserves, and passed the Native Land Husbandry Act (1951) abolished communally-owned land in reserves and enforced de-stocking (killing livestock) and ‘conservation’ practices in the reserves. The Native Land Husbandry Act unleashed an African nationalist fervour unseen until that point.

In 1953, after much hesitation, the British government agreed to create a Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, linking the semi-dominion of Southern Rhodesia with the directly-administered colonies of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, less developed economically (although Northern Rhodesia’s rich copper deposits were attractive to Southern Rhodesia) and with a significantly smaller – and less conservative – white population. The goal of the federation, described as an “aberration of history” was to maintain white minority rule while still moving in a more progressive direction than South Africa’s apartheid government. Racial laws were liberalized somewhat, in that some segregationist laws were abolished, blacks were theoretically to be associated to governance and they, theoretically, had voting rights if they met the franchise conditions. In reality, less than a thousand blacks could actually meet these conditions.

The black majority rejected the federation as a scheme to perpetuate colonialism and white minority rule. Unrest grew throughout the three constituent entities, particularly in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency in 1959. In Southern Rhodesia, a nascent black nationalist movement led by Joshua Nkomo was banned. However, at this point, black opposition was still relatively non-violent – Southern Rhodesian blacks demanded constitutional equality and one man, one vote. Southern Rhodesia’s white settlers, however, were obstinately opposed to any kind of racial and political equality. In 1958, Southern Rhodesian Premier Sir Garfield Todd, who had attempted to increase the black franchise from 2% to 16% of the black population, was removed from office and considered as a dangerous radical.

In 1961, a new constitution was approved in Southern Rhodesia. Blacks were to have 15 out of 65 seats in the Legislative Assembly, and there would be two separate electorate rolls: the dominant and predominantly white ‘A’ roll with high education, income and property qualifications; and the ‘B’ roll, with lower qualifications to allow some 10,600 voters – 90% of them black – to vote. A few MPs from the ruling party, including Ian Smith, opposed the new constitution and electoral qualifications, claiming that it was “racializing” politics (quite rich!). Nevertheless, the new constitution – which still granted Britain the right to change the constitution unilaterally – was approved by 65% of white voters. Nkomo initially approved the new document, but later rejected it. In December 1961, Nkomo founded the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU).

The so-called ‘Winds of Change’ (after British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s historic speech in Cape Town in 1960) were sweeping through Africa, and Britain was quickly losing the will to uphold shaky and widely reviled white minority rule in Africa. At the United Nations, the communist bloc and many Asian and African countries condemned colonialism and strongly backed national liberation movements in Africa. To avoid becoming an international pariah, Britain adopted a policy of “no independence before majority rule”.

Southern Rhodesian whites developed a siege mentality which made them instinctively hostile towards anything which reeked of liberalization or racial equality. The Rhodesian Front (RF), a new white conservative party running on a platform of independence, surprisingly won the December 1962 elections in Southern Rhodesia, defeating Premier Edgar Whitehead’s ruling United Federal Party, a rather moderate party. Whitehead, in an attempt to win black support, promised to repeal all discriminatory legislation (including the land apportionment laws), rattled white fears and his attempts to win black voters ran into a wall, with Nkomo’s ZAPU calling on blacks to boycott the election. Like South Africa’s Jan Smuts and his UP in the 1948 election, Whitehead had come to terms with the reality that Africans would eventually become influential political actors. The RF, led by Winston Field and Ian Smith, promised independence and strongly supported continuation of white minority rule and segregation. The RF claimed that the blacks were “not ready” to govern. This view, shared by most white Rhodesians, was influenced by the experience of newly-independent black African states which had quickly turned into autocratic one-party states. The Congo crisis in 1961 reinforced many white settlers’ view that the blacks were unfit to govern and that only white minority rule would protect their comfortable living conditions.

The Federation broke up in 1963. Both Northern Rhodesia – now Zambia – and Nyasaland – now Malawi – gained full independence (under black majority rule) quickly thereafter. Southern Rhodesia’s white leaders were dismayed that Zambia and Malawi, “less advanced” than they were, had been granted full independence upon the breakup of the federation, while Southern Rhodesia had not.

The new Premier, Winston Field, began negotiations with London in the hopes of gaining independence. By April 1964, however, Field’s inability to win independence led the RF caucus to remove him and replace him with Ian Smith, a Rhodesian-born war veteran who promised to take a much tougher stance against Britain. In October 1964, however, Britain’s position against Southern Rhodesian independence hardened with the election of the Labour Party under Harold Wilson. Labour was even less willing to come to terms with Ian Smith’s notion of white minority independence than the previous Conservative government had been. Smith tried to give a facade of black support for his project, by organizing an indaba with the 622 tribal chiefs – all coopted leaders who supported the white government given the hostility of black nationalists leaders towards them. The indaba ratified Smith’s push for independence, and the largely white electorate voted in favour of independence in a November 1964 referendum (90.5% in favour). Britain and black nationalists rejected the indaba as a sham, and Wilson’s government warned Smith of serious repercussions if he was to go ahead with a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI).

Talks between London and Salisbury (Rhodesia’s capital) reached a stalemate, with both sides sticking to their guns. Britain could hardly back down from its policy of “no independence before majority rule”, and Smith held that he had a mandate from the Rhodesian people for independence. In May 1965, the RF swept all 50 ‘A’ roll seats in a snap general election, running on the promise of independence.

Meanwhile, in August 1963, ZAPU had split. A faction opposed to Nkomo, led by reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and Robert Mugabe, created the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). Most of the split had been along ethnic lines, with Nkomo’s ZAPU representing the Ndebele minority while ZANU came to represent the Shona majority.

After the 1965, Smith continued his push for independence and was increasingly alienated from Britain. A major row developed between London and Salisbury when the Rhodesians announced their intention to open a diplomatic mission in Lisbon. Salazar’s authoritarian Portuguese government, which controlled neighboring Mozambique, was a strong ally of Rhodesia and accepted the Rhodesian mission in Lisbon.

On November 11, 1965, Ian Smith declared Rhodesia’s independence and signed the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). There was little domestic white opposition to the UDI, but the UDI was met with quasi-universal opposition by the international community, first and foremost from Britain. The UN Security Council (UNSC), in Resolution 216, condemned the UDI as “illegal and racist” and called on the international community to refuse recognition to Salisbury.

Britain was unwilling to take military action against Rhodesia, but instead hoped to cripple Smith’s regime by imposing economic sanctions – a ban on the import of Rhodesian goods (such as tobacco) and an oil embargo. The UNSC endorsed similar international sanctions in 1966 and 1968. The sanctions did not cripple the Rhodesian government and the country was not internationally isolated. Portugal and South Africa openly flouted the sanctions, providing it with oil and other resources. To enforce the oil embargo, Britain dispatched a Royal Navy squadron to the Mozambique Channel, to monitor oil deliveries to the port of Beira (Mozambique), which was landlocked Rhodesia’s most direct link to the sea. Portugal marketed Rhodesian goods as their own, with false certificate of origins; Rhodesia continued to trade with West Germany, Switzerland, Japan and France. In 1971, the United States Congress allowed American firms to import chromium and nickel. Even many African countries who virulently denounced the “racist government” of Salisbury were forced to trade with Rhodesia out of economic necessity. For example, Zambia was energetically dependent on the Kariba dam, controlled by Rhodesia.

However, Ian Smith’s attempt to regain international legitimacy lost with the UDI through diplomatic recognition of Rhodesian independence were unsuccessful. Britain, naturally, never recognized Rhodesia and withdrew its diplomatic staff from Salisbury. But even allied nations like Portugal and South Africa, and more friendly (or indifferent) nations like France, West Germany, Japan and the US never extended diplomatic recognition.

Abortive talks were held between Wilson and Smith’s government in 1966 and 1968, with no results.

Land apportionment in Rhodesia, 1965 (source: Wikipedia)

In 1969, Rhodesian voters approved a new republican constitution and on March 2, 1970, Rhodesia became a republic. Between 1965 and 1970, Rhodesia had continued to pretend that it was a member of the Commonwealth and it continued to swear loyalty to the Queen. Rhodesia, after 1970, became a parliamentary republic with a ceremonial President and a powerful Prime Minister, Ian Smith. The RF swept all 50 ‘white seats’ in the 1970, 1974 and 1977 elections. After 1969, 8 seats were elected by African voters who met high property, income and education qualifications and 8 ‘tribal’ seats were elected by coopted tribal leaders. Segregation, similar to apartheid, was strictly enforced and for black nationalists, Rhodesia became a police state. The Land Tenure Act (1969) replaced the 1930 legislation, granting roughly half the land to whites and the other half to blacks. These measures led to further overstocking, very high population densities, poverty, low agricultural productivity and environmental degradation in the black areas.

In April 1966, ZANU’s armed wing – ZANLA – tried to launch a sabotage campaign against the regime, but its plot was quickly foiled and its leaders arrested. The black resistance movements were uncoordinated and often fought among themselves. The Rhodesian Bush War began in earnest in 1972, first with scattered attacks against white-owned farms and intimidation against Africans who worked for white farmers. ZANU, backed by China and the Mozambican FRELIMO, launched scattered guerrilla attacks; while ZAPU (and its armed wing, ZIPRA), backed by the Soviet Union, Cuba and East Germany, focused on conventional warfare. Nkomo’s ZAPU was the more moderate of the two parties, more amenable to compromise with the white regime, and on better terms with western countries than the radical and Maoist ZANU.

At this point, however, Rhodesia was still able to control the situation – bordering South Africa and Mozambique were still friendly, and Zambia remained dependent on Rhodesia for energy and copper exports. In 1973, Smith closed its borders to Zambia, a reaction to Zambian logistical support for ZAPU, but in doing so he annoyed South Africa, which had substantial interests in Zambia.

In late 1971-1972, Rhodesia and Britain came close to a compromise deal favourable to Smith and the white minority. The new Conservative government in London, elected in 1970, was more flexible that Harold Wilson’s Labour government, and accepted a compromise solution with Smith which would have recognized Rhodesia in exchange for a slow, progressive and phased transition to majority rule over many years. However, a royal commission found that blacks were heavily opposed to the negotiated settlement, and Britain shelved the plan (and Salisbury was never all that hot with it either).

1974 marked a turning point year for Rhodesia. In April 1974, the Carnation Revolution in Portugal overthrew the dictatorial Estado Novo and marked the end of Portugal’s embattled colonial empire. Mozambique, led by the pro-ZANU FRELIMO, gained independence in June 1975. Rhodesia’s secret services backed, along with the US and South Africa, the right-wing RENAMO rebel group.

South Africa, facing troubles of its own at home, became less willing to provide enthusiastic support for Smith’s regime in Salisbury. Prodded by the US, South African Prime Minister BJ Vorster exerted pressure on Smith to open talks on a transition to majority rule. South Africa was now more interested in buying time for apartheid at home than propping up an apartheid-like regime abroad. Smith bowed to pressure and accepted, in principle, black majority rule, and held inconclusive talks with ZANU, ZAPU and reverend Abel Muzorewa’s anti-communist UANC in 1975 and 1976.

The guerrilla conflict spread throughout the conflict by the late 1970s, and Ian Smith’s strategy had become to hold off the ZANU/ZAPU (united in a ‘Patriotic Front’ since 1976) until he could reach a deal with moderate black leaders. Further talks in 1976 and 1977 all ended in deadlock. However, in November 1977, Smith shifted gears and came out in support of “one man, one vote”.

In March 1978, the Internal Settlement were signed, the result of a deal between Ian Smith’s white minority government and moderate black leaders led by reverend Abel Muzorewa and former moderate ZANU leader Ndabaningi Sithole’s faction of ZANU (called ZANU-Ndonga). The country would transition to majority rule with a multiracial government, but the country’s police, security forces, civil service and judiciary would remain in white hands for the time being. Furthermore, whites would hold 28 seats in a 100-seat Parliament, although they only represented 3% of the population. This agreement was rejected by most of the international community (spearheaded by the US and Britain), who demanded ZANU and ZAPU’s participation in elections and government, and by both factions of the ‘Patriotic Front’. ZANU and ZAPU both pledged violence against any black ‘traitors’ who accepted the Internal Settlement.

Violence and cruelty escalated further in 1978. In September 1978, a regular Air Rhodesia passenger flight was shot down by ZAPU with a surface-to-air missile. In February 1979, another Air Rhodesia plane was shot down by ZAPU. Both factions of the Patriotic Front were only willing to accept complete victory, and ZANU made no secret of the fact that it wanted a one-party socialist state.

White voters approved the Internal Settlement in a 1979 referendum with 84% in favour. The first multiracial elections were held in April 1979, boycotted by ZANU and ZAPU, whose guerrillas used violence and intimidation to keep black voters from participating. ZANU and ZAPU had both declined several invitations to participate, feeling that their positions would not be secure under a constitution which they had not drafted and which they perceived as retaining white minority rule.

In a generally clean election, reverend Abel Muzorewa’s UANC won 51 seats against 12 for Sithole’s ZANU-Ndonga and 9 seats for a small Matabeleland-based party. Ian Smith’s RF, facing little white opposition, won all 28 ‘white’ seats. In June 1979, Muzorewa became Prime Minister of ‘Zimbabwe Rhodesia’, the country’s first black leader.

However, the election went unrecognized by both Washington and London, and the UNSC passed two resolutions denouncing the elections as unrepresentative of the Zimbabwean people and designed to entrench white minority rule. The US Senate voted to lift sanctions, but President Jimmy Carter’s administration refused to recognize the legitimacy of Muzorewa’s government and did not lift sanctions. On the ground, both ZANU and ZAPU intensified their guerrilla campaign against the government.

Zimbabwe Rhodesia’s government had little choice but to bow down to the insurgents and reopen negotiations with them. Years of guerrilla fighting had weakened and exhausted the country, and whites had began emigrating from Rhodesia in 1975. Under American, British and African pressure, Muzorewa’s government agreed to a new round of talks at Lancaster House in London, where both factions of the Patriotic Front would participate.

Three delegations sat down at Lancaster House between September and December 1979: the Patriotic Front, represented by Mugabe’s ZANU and Nkomo’s ZAPU; the Salisbury government, represented by Prime Minister Muzorewa, Sithole and Ian Smith; and Margaret Thatcher’s British government, which had organized the talks. The first weeks of negotiations were unfruitful, in large part due to the PF’s intransigence. A particularly contentious issue was that of land reform – the British wanted to protect the white minority from expropriations, while the PF clamored for immediate land reform. It was only very reluctantly, pressured by Nkomo and African states tired of the Bush War, that ZANU agreed to a “willing buyer, willing seller” program to be funded by the US and the UK, and to guarantees for the white minority protecting them from expropriations for ten years. The Lancaster House Accords, signed in December 1979, created a parliamentary government for Zimbabwe, with 20 seats reserved for whites. Between the signature of the agreement and general elections in February 1980, the country temporarily reverted to British colonial rule and all parties agreed to a cease-fire.

Mugabe insisted that ZANU and ZAPU contest the election separately, because he was confident that his predominantly Shona ZANU could easily beat the ZAPU, backed by the much smaller Ndebele minority. The six-week election campaign was marked by violence and voter intimidation, with Mugabe’s ZANU guerrillas coercing thousands of black voters into voting for ZANU under threat of death if they did not. Muzorewa and Nkomo wanted Mugabe to be disqualified, given that the agreements allowed for a party’s disqualification if they used intimidation, but with Mugabe threatening to restart the war if he did not win, the British and Americans had little choice but to give in to his heavy-handed intimidation and allow the election to go forward.

Under such conditions, Mugabe’s ZANU swept to victory, taking 63% of the vote and 57 of the 80 black seats. Nkomo’s ZAPU won only 24% and 20 seats, the bulk of its support concentrated in Matabeleland. Muzorewa’s UANC only won 8% and 3 seats, while Sithole was shut out. Ian Smith’s RF, again facing token opposition, won 83% of the white vote and all 20 white seats. Mugabe became Prime Minister, with a government including two whites.

Mugabe, 33 years and going

Robert Mugabe did not transform the country into a Chinese or Soviet puppet stage or turn overnight into the despot he is widely seen as today. In fact, there was an aura of national unity right after his victory – but it didn’t last long. Former white liberal Premier Garfield Todd became a senator, while Nkomo – Mugabe’s old enemy – was named to cabinet. The old commander of the Rhodesian army was kept in office, and led the integration of ZANLA and ZIPRA guerrillas into the new Zimbabwean military. He increased wages, and put in place new social programs (in education and healthcare).

Many whites left the country between 1980 and 1990, dropping to 100,000 in 1985 and about 70,000 in 1990. Many whites who had come to Rhodesia after 1945 had come seeing the country as a ‘safe haven’ from the decolonization and black majority rule elsewhere in Africa; they had little deep emotional attachment to the country and left once Rhodesia disappeared. Black majority rule, despite the initial safeguards for whites, meant the end of a generous social welfare net and guaranteed jobs for whites. Many white farmers and businessmen, however, stayed in the country, and some adapted quite well to the new dispensation. A number of RF MPs decided to sit as independents and generally supported Mugabe’s ZANU.

Farming remained in the hands of the white minority, with around 4,000-6,000 white farmers (against 200,000 black farmers) controlling the vast majority of the land. White farms were the most productive, and allowed Zimbabwe to remain self-sufficient. However, the government faced intense pressure from landless black families who were demanding land. The 1985 Land Acquisition Act, drawn up in the spirit of the  “willing buyer, willing seller” principle from Lancaster House, was able to resettle 71,000 families out of a targeted 162,000 families. White farmers were unwilling to sell their land and the government had limited money to compensate landowners, and the “willing buyer, willing seller” – valid for 10 years – meant that the government was powerless to take more decisive action.

Mugabe wanted to create a one-party system. Having successfully marginalized Nkomo’s ZAPU in the 1980 elections, the new ZANU government moved to integrate ZAPU and its troops (ZIPRA) into the ruling party and military respectively. ZAPU/ZIPRA quickly realized what awaited them, and violent clashes between ZANU and ZAPU began in 1980. In 1981, Nkomo had been removed from government. The political conflict escalated into an ethnic conflict. In 1983, Mugabe sent the North Korean-trained ‘Fifth Brigade’ to reestablish order in Matabeleland. After what amounted to ethnic cleansing in which Mugabe’s troops killed some 25,000 civilians, ZAPU’s leader Joshua Nkomo was compelled to sign a “unity agreement” with ZANU in December 1987. In exchange for a general amnesty, ZAPU merged into ZANU, which became ZANU-PF (PF for ‘Patriotic Front’).

In the meantime, ZANU had won an even larger majority in the 1985 election, taking 77% of the vote and 64 out of 80 black seats, against only 19% and 15 seats for ZAPU. For the 20 white seats, there was a genuine contest between Ian Smith’s rebranded RF (Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe) and a group of pro-ZANU white independents. Smith’s party won 55% of the vote and 15 seats, against 38% for the pro-ZANU independent group which won 4 seats. In September 1987, Mugabe, with a two-thirds majority, amended the constitution and removed the 20 ‘white roll’ seats and replaced them with 20 nominated MPs, leaving him with the support of 99 out 100 MPs. He also modified the constitution to establish a presidential republic, abolishing the office of Prime Minister and declaring himself President (head of state and government).

The first ten years of Mugabe’s regime were relatively successful in terms of human development. Government spending was primarily directed towards human development and support for smallholder agriculture, and, as a result, social indicators improved considerably compared to 1980. Numbers on infant mortality, immunization, child malnutrition, school enrollment and the adult literacy rate all improved. However, high public spending, heavily restrictive conditions on foreign investment, artificially capped interest rates and the discouragement of independent private businesses all dragged down the economy.

Zimbabwe’s transformation into a corrupt, authoritarian one-party state was confirmed in the 1990 elections. Mugabe was reelected to the presidency with 83% of the vote, and ZANU-PF won 117 out of 120 seats in Parliament. In 1995, ZANU-PF won 118 out of 120 seats and in 1996, Mugabe was reelected with 93% of the vote after his two opponents – Muzorewa and Sithole – withdrew from the competition.

In 1991, Mugabe’s government started an austerity program backed by the IMF and the World Bank. The reforms included liberalization of foreign exchange controls, removing price controls, reforming the inefficient state-owned companies and fiscal deficit reduction. However, the austerity program were unsuccessful, as public sector spending continued to grow and inflation increased. Growth, employment, wages and social services spending contracted sharply, while three years of drought (1992, 1993 and 1995) hurt the economy. Uncompetitive industries, now open to competition and unfamiliar economic conditions, collapsed.

Austerity policies angered black farmers and war veterans. In December 1997, the country faced general strike led by war veterans who demanded that pensions for their war service, even if the state didn’t have the money to pay such pensions. The government, abandoning austerity reforms, started paying war pensions. In 1998, Zimbabwe, despite a struggling economy at home, intervened militarily in the Congolese Civil War to support the DRC’s government, led by Laurent Kabila. Foreign aid was suspended after Mugabe’s intervention in Congo, which, it has been said, was to protect his personal investments and participate in commercial mining.

Land reform once again became a key issue in Zimbabwean politics in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 1992, the government had abandoned the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle by allowing the government to compulsorily buy land for redistribution. Britain (whose aid had run out in 1996 and was no longer willing to pay for land reform in Zimbabwe) and the IMF warned Harare against forced redistribution of land, but by this point, Mugabe had become even more intransigent. ZANU-PF insisted that land reform, regardless of its economic impact, was necessary to correct past colonial injustices; whites argued that the issue was one of land development rather than land tenure, saying that the country had ample agricultural land which was not being cultivated. The government’s “compulsory acquisition with compensation” approach in the 1990s was largely unsuccessful, in part due to white farmers’ hostility. In 1999, the government initiated a “fast-track land reform” policy, aimed at transferring 4,000 white-owned farms to black ownership, often through ad-hoc measures or forcible seizure.

To move faster on land reform, Mugabe drafted a new constitution in 2000 which controversially gave the government the right to acquire land without compensation. The new constitution was opposed by a new opposition movement, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which was organized by Morgan Tsvangirai, the former leader of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and lapsed supporter of ZANU-PF. The MDC argued that the constitution, which instituted non-retrospective two-term presidential term limits and immunized state and military officials from prosecution, was a means for Mugabe to entrench himself in power. In a major rebuke for Mugabe, voters rejected his new constitution with 55% against. A few months later, in June 2000, ZANU-PF barely won the legislative elections, taking 63 seats to the MDC’s 57 seats, although an additional 30 members nominated by the President shored up ZANU-PF’s parliamentary majority.

Mugabe responded to his first defeat at the polls with more repression and moving forward with fast-track land reform. Tsvangirai was arrested for the first time in October 2000. A few days after the referendum, war veterans marched on white-owned forms, violently forcing owners and farm workers off the land and occupying the land. The Parliament passed an amendment similar in wording to the draft constitution’s article on expropriation without compensation.

South African President Thabo Mbeki attempted to negotiate a settlement with Mugabe many times between 2000 and 2005, but Mugabe renounced all commitments he had made and South Africa’s controversial ‘quiet diplomacy’ approach towards Zimbabwe was harshly criticized by Mugabe’s opponents for allowing Mugabe to entrench himself in power.

Whites who owned large tracts of land before 2000 ran efficient and productive farms, allowing the country to be self-sufficient. Fast-track land reform and land redistribution, which critics says primarily benefited Mugabe’s cronies, led to a sharp downturn in agricultural production, notably tobacco. Zimbabwe now struggles to feed its population. However, small farms, now owned by blacks, produce on a smaller scale and are said to be generally successful. Some studies have disputed the idea that the main beneficiaries of land reform were well-connected bureaucrats or ZANU-PF stooges, although it is possible that these individuals own larger tracts of land. There are only 300 white farmers left in Zimbabwe; many expropriated white owners have either left the country or made new livelihoods in business. Land reform, however, negatively impacted white farm workers, creating a class of “poor whites”. Overall, Zimbabwe’s white population has dropped to 20,000-30,000.

Land reform, among other factors, threw Zimbabwe into a spiral of economic collapse between 2000 and 2008. The country was in recession between 2002 and 2009, inflation vaulted to over 66,000%, and there were persistent shortages of hard currency, fiat currency, fuel, medicine, and food. GDP per capita dropped by 40%, agricultural output dropped by 51% and industrial production dropped by 47%. Life expectancy dropped from 61 years in 1989 to 43 in 2004.

In 1999, the IMF and the World Bank Group suspended their projects in Zimbabwe. In 2001, President George W. Bush signed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act which imposed targeted economic sanctions and a credit freeze on the country. The government claims that such sanctions have crippled the economy; the opposition and the international community claim, that land reform, corruption and woeful economic mismanagement created the crisis.

In March 2002, Mugabe was reelected in an election marred by fraud and intimidation by ZANU-PF. Mugabe took 56% of the vote against Morgan Tsvangirai’s 42%. Although the OAU and South Africa, controversially, declared the election to be “free and fair”, international observers and the MDC condemned the election. Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth for one year, and the EU imposed economic sanctions. The government continued to crack down on the opposition, Tsvangirai was arrested again in 2003.

Economic mismanagement and money creation (beginning in 1998 to cover the Congo war) led to massive hyperinflation, especially in 2007-2008. Inflation peaked at 89,700,000,000,000,000,000,000% in mid-November 2008. Successive government measures – price freezes, allowing use of foreign currencies and redenomination (a one hundred trillion dollar bill).

Despite economic collapse, the government’s repression and the MDC’s divisions and indecision allowed the ZANU-PF to sweep to victory in the 2005 legislative elections, taking 78 seats to the MDC’s 41; with the additional 30 appointees providing the ZANU-PF with a two-thirds majority. The MDC split that year, with Morgan Tsvangirai’s faction (MDC-T) opposing participation in the 2005 senatorial elections, while Arthur Mutambara and Welshman Ncube led a rival faction, MDC-M, which supported participation.

In 2005, Mugabe’s government decided to destroy the shantytowns in Harare, which, incidentally, were opposition strongholds. The government claimed the goal of the operation was to crack down on crime and resettle inhabitants in decent living conditions. The opposition claimed the clearance of slums was politically-motivated, targeting poor voters in their urban strongholds. According to the UN, approximately 700,000 people were made homeless, and another 2.4 million were directly or indirectly affected

Mugabe’s thugs beat up opposition protesters, including Tsvangirai, in 2007. By this point, use of the ‘failed state’ epithet to describe Zimbabwe had become commonplace: over 70% of the population lived in poverty, unemployment ran at 80-90%, running water became a prized good, power shortages were common, the education system had crumbled and malnutrition was widespread.

The 2008 election was a disaster. Held on March 29, preliminary results released by the MDC showed their candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, to be ahead and the opposition claimed that Tsvangirai had won by the first round. However, the government stayed mum about the results. It announced parliamentary results on April 2, with the MDC-T winning 100 seats, ZANU-PF winning 99 and MDC-M winning 10 seats. In the Senate, ZANU-PF won 30 seats against 24 for MDC-T and 6 for MDC-M. The government, however, continuously delayed the publication of the presidential results, leading the MDC to claim that they were rigging the election to keep them from winning. Presidential results were only announced on May 2; according to these results, Tsvangirai (MDC-T) won 47.9% to Mugabe’s 43.2% and Simba Makoni (MDC-M)’s 8.3%; these numbers required a runoff election on June 27. The MDC-T claimed it had won 50.3% of the votes, but it had no choice but to participate in the runoff.

Zimbabwe 2008 - Parliament

Results of the 2008 Zimbabwean parliamentary elections (own map, based on an outline map by Adam Carr)

However, Mugabe and ZANU-PF unleashed a wave of violence against opposition supporters, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. As politically-motivated violence escalated, Tsvangirai was no longer able to participate in the runoff election, and withdrew on June 22. Western countries and some African countries (notably Zambia) called on the second round to be delayed and denounced violence, but the government stuck to its guns and went ahead with the June 27 ballot. Mugabe won the sham ballot with 90%.

To make a terrible situation even worse, over 4,000 people died after a cholera outbreak which began in August 2008.

Nevertheless, the 2008 elections badly weakened Mugabe’s hold on power, and he was forced to accept a power-sharing agreement with the MDC’s two factions. The deal, mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki in the name of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), was finalized in September 2008 but implementation of the agreement’s provisions dragged on until February 2009, when Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister. Mbeki and the SADC were once again criticized for failing to confront Mugabe, and granting him and his party too much power in the new ‘national unity’ environment.

Under the power-sharing agreement, Mugabe remained President and ZANU-PF won 14 ministries – including defense, state security, foreign affairs and justice; the MDC’s factions got 13 and 3 ministries respectively, with Tsvangirai’s MDC-T getting, among others, finance and health. The contentious Ministry of Home Affairs, which is responsible for the police, was split between ZANU-PF and the MDC-T.

Both parties despise and distrust one another, and both – especially Mugabe – did their best to undermine the intent of the power-sharing agreement. In 2009 and 2010, Mugabe unilaterally appointed central bank governor, the attorney general and the police commissioner; he also refused to swear in some MDC-T governors and ministers. Mugabe threatened to break up the government and call for snap elections several times in 2010 and 2011.

Mugabe, despite increasing frailty at 89, remains a very astute politician. Since 2009, he has successfully managed to steamroll the MDC and scam the SADC and South Africa. He refused to implement most of the power-sharing agreement’s conditions, while farm invasions, human rights and blatant disrespect for the rule of law have continued unabated. MDC officials, including cabinet ministers, continue to face harassment from authorities controlled by ZANU-PF. Although violence declined somewhat in 2012, state-sponsored and politically-motivated violence remains a major issue – targeting opposition activists, independent journalists or local NGOs. Freedom of assembly is still tightly curtailed by a repressive 2002 law requiring police permission for public meetings and demonstrations.

Conditions have improved somewhat since 2009 thanks to power-sharing. Controls on the print media have been loosened somewhat, and the new media commission appears slightly more independent than its state-controlled predecessor, and the government lifted a ban on foreign news organizations although they are subject to high accreditation fees.

The government’s main achievement has been restoring economic stability and more or less ending the decade-long economic crisis which began in 2000. Zimbabwe’s GDP growth rate skyrocketed from -18% in 2008 to +8.9% in 2009 (and grew by over 10% in 2010 and 2011) and it has maintained consistently high growth since then; growth over the next five years is projected to remain stable at 5%. In PPP terms, however, Zimbabwe’s GDP remains lower than it was in 2000. Despite higher agricultural output than in 2009, Zimbabwe’s tobacco and cotton exports remain below 2000 levels, and agriculture has only incompletely recovered from the “lost decade”. Inflation has been cut to 4-6%. Stores, once devoid of goods, are now shelved with imported goods. Finally, education and healthcare – will still deficient – have improved, with schools and hospitals reopened and operating more or less normally.

However, the main reason for the economy’s rebound is the adoption of foreign currencies – first and foremost the US dollar and the South African rand – to replace Zimbabwe’s worthless former currency.

The opposition and ZANU-PF managed to agree to a new constitution, approved by 94.5% of voters in March 2013. The process was long, tortuous and drawn-out; both sides clashed on the content of the new document. Although imperfect, most critics of the new constitution agree that it is better than what it replaced. Presidential powers are reduced, the Parliament gains more power as a counterweight to the executive branch, there are new independent commissions, the judiciary should function more independently from the executive and there is a bill of rights. However, the new constitution prevents any legal challenges to farm expropriations.

On the international scene, the government – with South African support – was able to convince the EU to loosen some of the sanctions against the country, and foreign aid/investment has increased since 2009.

Although it has long been clear that Mugabe had zero interest in making the power-sharing agreement work and started breaking his promises as soon as he had signed it, it was able to hold out until the legal end of the presidential and parliamentary terms. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, although aware that his party was continuously outwitted and humiliated by ZANU-PF, was unwilling to pull the MDC out of the unity government, knowing that the alternative was allowing Mugabe and his military allies to run the country.

Candidates and issues

Incumbent President Robert Mugabe, the country’s strongman since independence in 1980, ran for yet another five-year term in office. Mugabe is 89 years old, and the new constitution’s non-retroactive term limits means that he could serve another 10 years as President.

Mugabe is a controversial figure, who has confounded his critics and opponents numerous times. He is widely reviled by the west, particularly Britain and the US, for a whole host of reasons. A lot of foreigners hate him because of his controversial farm occupations and expropriation of white farmers, but while this policy likely had a negative impact on the Zimbabwean economy, it is not the top issue for black Zimbabweans, even opposition supporters.

Others, both in Zimbabwe and around the world, revile him for crushing human rights, basic liberties and rule of law numerous times in his 33 years in power. Particularly controversial, especially in the eyes of foreign observers, has been his stances on homosexuality. In 1995, he called homosexuals “worse than dogs and pigs” and same-sex activities remain illegal in the country – and that law is enforced. ZANU-PF continues to use openly homophobic rhetoric, claiming that homosexuality is a sin and is “un-African”.

However, Mugabe has maintained a sizable and genuine base of popular support both in Zimbabwe and Africa. Mugabe still has some legitimacy leftover as a ‘liberation hero’, although his authoritarian style of governance has eroded that legitimacy somewhat, even in Africa. His supporters see him as a courageous African anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist leader, who stands up to the former western colonial powers and the other ‘imperialist’ states. Anti-imperialist rhetoric remains a favourite of Mugabe and ZANU-PF; for years, his party has used anti-imperialist/colonialist vitriol against Mugabe’s critics. For example, in 2008, ZANU-PF claimed that the cholera outbreak was a “terrorist plot” by these imperialist powers. Numerous times, Mugabe’s allies have denounced foreign meddling in Zimbabwean politics or even very tame South African/SADC mediation as part of an imperialist plot aimed at “regime change”.

Mugabe’s former aura as an African liberation leader, a type idolized the world over in the 1960s and 1970s, also explains why his African neighbours have been more conciliatory with him than the west would like. Mugabe has continuously presented himself as the embodiment of the African liberator, and many of his peers (such as former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda) and juniors (such as former South African president Thabo Mbeki) in other countries respected him for that.

However, things have changed. It is well established that Mugabe has resented Nelson Mandela for “stealing” the image of African liberator from him after 1994. Only recently, Mugabe said that Mandela had been “too soft” on the whites. Similarly, a new generation of African leaders seem slightly less willing to put up with Mugabe’s antics. Former Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa was one of Mugabe’s first African critics before his death in 2008. Thabo Mbeki’s successor, Jacob Zuma, has been slightly tougher on Mugabe and, as the SADC’s “facilitator” for Zimbabwe since 2009 expressed his frustration with Mugabe’s behaviour in the power-sharing government.

Nevertheless, South Africa’s policy towards Zimbabwe has waffled. It has not taken any decisive actions to get Mugabe to abide to the agreement or even criticize him too harshly; but at the same time, it has been slightly less conciliatory and tame than Mbeki’s administration had been. One of South Africa’s main concern in relations with Zimbabwe has been to prevent another wave of immigration from its northern neighbour. There are already 2 million Zimbabwean immigrants living in South Africa, placing strains on service delivery and creating major social tensions with impoverished ‘native’ black South Africans.

The main plank of Mugabe’s platform in this election has been “indigenisation” and black empowerment. An indigenisation law passed in 2007, which came into effect in 2010, stipulates that 51% of shares in all companies operating in the country must be owned by black Zimbabweans. Details, however, remain murky. The government sent an ultimatum to foreign-owned groups to submit plans on share sales by September 2011, and most ultimately did so. In 2012, the government targeted four major foreign-owned banks. In his campaign, Mugabe mentioned 1,138 companies in 12 sectors which would be targeted in the next five-years. He has claimed that indigenisation will unlock $7.3 billion from foreign-owned entities, create 2.265 million jobs and grow the economy by about 9% a year by 2018. However, going by the impact of the “indigenisation” of the agricultural sector after 2000, ZANU-PF’s latest plan worries many foreign investors.

Mugabe is 89, and although he was almost as vibrant and bombastic as ever on the campaign trail, he’s showing signs of frailty and the rumour mill has been going crazy for a few years now with rumours of his impeding death. There are rumours that he has cancer, and that his recent trips to Singapore might have been to receive treatment. Mugabe’s health is not as big of an issue as in, say, the October 2012 presidential election in Venezuela, but the opposition has been playing on his old age and raising the prospect of his death.

It is said that there is a power struggle brewing within ZANU-PF. Under the constitution, the First Vice President, Joice Mujuru, would replace Mugabe until the end of his constitutional five-year term. Mujuru, who served in a number of cabinet posts since 1980, became First Vice President in December 2004 and has been considered the favourite potential successor to Mugabe. She is the widow of Solomon Mujuru, a former ZANLA guerrilla leader during the Bush War and later commander of the Zimbabwean military until 1990. He was a close ally of Mugabe and boosted his wife’s political ascendancy behind the scenes, but he allegedly fell out with Mugabe a few years before his death. He died in mysterious circumstances in August 2011, and his death has led some to think that his wife might no longer be the top choice to replace Mugabe. Joice Mujuru is said to be a moderate reformist.

Her main rival would be Emmerson Mnangagwa, the current Minister of Defense, who is one of the most powerful figures in the government and ZANU-PF. In the 1980s, as Minister of State Security, he oversaw the Matabeleland massacres and later served as Minister of Justice until 2000, at which point he became Speaker of Parliament (until 2005). Mnangagwa is said to be a hardliner closely connected to the military; he is the president of the Joint Operations Command, supposedly defunct but still quite powerful – Tsvangirai isn’t on it, and many claim that this body, which coordinates the state security apparatus, is running the country. Mnangagwa’s name has come up over and over in various secret plots or rumoured coups.

General Constantine Chiwenga, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces and a member of ZANU-PF’s Politburo. He is said to have the support of powerful hardliners in the party and security apparatus.

On a lighter note, ZANU-PF’s Twitter account is an endless stream of hilarity. On election day, under the #votezanupf hashtag, it gave a bunch of rather – uhm, original – reasons to vote for Mugabe: “to avoid car accidents”, “to save sex as we know it”, “or what will you say to you wife when she marries a woman?”, “for world peace”, “for a longer love life”, “to protect us from racist thugs like Steve Hofmeyr” (an Afrikaner singer/actor in South Africa) – or – the best – “so we don’t become another South Africa.” ZANU-PF’s Twitter account also talked of “turning off the internet” because it had “too much ungovernable nonsense” and seeking help “from our Chinese sisters to ensure that this twitter thing and Facebook things are blocked.” It also often lashes out at Helen Zille, the South African opposition leader – it called Lindi Mazibuko, the house leader of the South African opposition, “fat”.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe’s unlikely “partner” in the moribund national unity government since 2009, is running in his third attempt to topple Mugabe from power. As always, Tsvangirai has stuck to his old mantra of ‘change’, which remains a powerful message with his mostly young and urban poor supporters.

His platform, however, highlights the achievements of the national unity government. Most of his focus is on job creation, promising to create 1 million jobs by 2018, mostly through an economic plan based on foreign investment.

Although the MDC has insisted it would win a “free and fair” election at any time since 2009, there have been signs that the MDC’s sheen has worn off after the national unity government. The MDC doesn’t have much of a record to stand on from that point of view, given that it was constantly steamrolled by ZANU-PF and Mugabe. Besides, some MDC cabinet ministers were quite incompetent and poor service delivery in local councils controlled by the MDC has hurt it as well. Mugabe’s men also tied Tsvangirai, whose wife died in a car crash in 2009, to a number of sex scandals which have apparently somewhat undermined his credibility as a credible alternative to Mugabe.

At the same time, however, Tsvangirai’s campaign nevertheless managed to draw out some huge crowds at his rallies.

Welshman Ncube, the Minister of Industry and Commerce, was the MDC-N’s candidate. His platform mostly focused on devolving powers to regional governments. He drew criticism for harshly attacking Tsvangirai and highlighting internal squabbles within the opposition.

Ncube formed a sort of coalition with Dumiso Dabengwa, the candidate of a small faction of ZAPU which recently split from ZANU-PF. Dabengwa, who was educated in Moscow, was head of intelligence for ZAPU during the Bush War and landed in prison following the ZAPU-ZANU split after 1980. He was Minister of Home Affairs between 1992 and 2000, after ZAPU’s Nkomo signed the ‘unity agreement’ with Mugabe in 1987. He left ZANU-PF in 2008 to back Simba Makoni’s presidential candidacy.

Kisinoti Mukwazhewas the nobody also-ran candidate, who dropped out a few days before the vote and apparently backed ZANU-PF.

Electoral conditions

After some hesitation, Mugabe went ahead with a July 31 date for the election. It was originally thought that the election would be held in September to allow time for more reforms, but Mugabe scammed the SADC and went ahead to decree an earlier date. An earlier date and a rushed election/campaign was more advantageous for Mugabe, to prevent that any real reforms could be made. An earlier date ensured that there was not enough time for voter registration and the electoral roll to be monitored independently, or for promised media coverage reforms to be made to provide the MDC with more airtime and fairer coverage.

A major problem was the electoral roll. For years, it has been said that the rolls include the names of thousands of voters aged over 100, in a country with a life expectancy below 50. On the other hand, many young voters had not been registered. More importantly, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a local observer group, said that only 68% of the voting-age population in urban areas – MDC strongholds – made it onto the lists, compared to nearly all voting-age adults in rural areas – ZANU-PF turf. Urban voters, reliable opposition supporters, were systematically denied the chance to register and were more likely to be turned away from the polls on election day, for “administrative reasons”.

ZANU-PF certainly fiddled with the electoral rolls, given that they were only published one day before the election.

ZANU-PF insisted it would win the election and unleashed the usual vitriol at the opposition – “Western puppets” or “traitors”. However, Mugabe said he would “surrender” if he lost the election and said that the election wouldn’t be rigged – because he insisted that none of Zimbabwe’s past elections had been rigged, and because ‘rigging’ was a foreign word altogether. That being said, very few thought that Mugabe – new constitution or not – would retire peacefully if he lost. The military and the police hierarchy is still strongly behind Mugabe, insisting that they would not serve under Tsvangirai. In the shadows, they’ve continued arresting, harassing or beating up members of civic groups and NGOs.

The police also banned radios, popular in rural areas, which carried foreign broadcasts critical of ZANU-PF. It said “unpatriotic individuals” had been distributing radios incompatible with state-owned stations.


Incomplete official results. Turnout increased significantly from 2.5 million in 2008 to 3.48 million today.


Robert Mugabe (ZANU-PF) 61.09%
Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) 33.94%
Welshman Ncube (MDC-N) 2.68%
Dumiso Dabengwa (ZAPU) 0.74%
Kisinoti Mukwazhe (ZDP) 0.28%


ZANU-PF 160 seats (+61)
MDC-T 49 seats (-51)
Independents 1 seat (nc)
MDC-N 0 seats (-10)

On official results, President Robert Mugabe won handsomely, a striking difference with the convoluted and controversial outcome of the 2008 election. On these numbers, Mugabe won reelection with 61% by the first round, while ZANU-PF won a crushing three-fourths majority in the lower house – more than enough for Mugabe’s party to amend the new constitution unilaterally.

However, the opposition has rejected these results. As early as August 1, before any results had been published, MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai effectively conceded defeat by claiming that it had been a “sham election” which did not reflect “the will of the people.” The MDC claims that it won the election. That being said, Tsvangirai has little road for recourse: he is challenging the result in the courts, but it is extremely unlikely that the courts – sympathetic to Mugabe – will overturn the election results, the court challenge will only delay Mugabe’s inevitable inauguration to a new term in office.

His second hope laid with the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the only two foreign organizations which sent election observers. However, the SADC – and its hegemon South Africa – has endorsed the elections. Both the SADC and AU noted irregularities, and the SADC stopped short of calling the election ‘fair’ but it did call it ‘free and peaceful’. The head of the AU mission, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said that the vote was “free, honest and credible.” That being said, this is coming from a former head of state whose own reelection in 2003 was marred by serious allegations of fraud.

South African President Jacob Zuma congratulated Mugabe on his reelection and calling on all parties to accept the results. Other southern African countries, except Botswana, have endorsed the results of the election. The SADC, the AU and especially South Africa’s main priority is maintaining regional stability, therefore they were able to swallow Mugabe’s contested reelection as a means of avoiding strife and conflict.

However, Western nations have all denounced the results of the elections. British Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed ‘grave concerns’ and said that the irregularities called into question the election’s credibility. The EU voiced similar concerns, noting “weaknesses in the electoral process and a lack of transparency.” American Secretary of State John Kerry was even blunter, saying that the US did not believe that the results constituted a “credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people.” Australia went even further by calling for a re-run of the election.

The independent domestic Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), which had 7,000 observers on the ground, said that the credibility of the elections were “seriously compromised by a systematic effort to disenfranchise an estimated million voters.”

This article from the BBC outlines the main allegations of fraud and vote rigging. The main issue has been electoral registration. The ZESN found that, in urban wards, only 67.9% of the voting-age population were registered to vote, against 99.97% in rural wards. Over 760,000 urban residents of voting age were therefore not registered to vote, and the electoral rolls were not published until the day before the vote. Because the rolls were not available – something which the AU also voiced concerns about – these rolls were likely filled with thousands of duplicates or centenarian voters. The MDC claims it found 838,000 duplicates (same name/address/date of birth, different IDs), 350,000 people aged over 85 – including 109,000 aged over 100 (Japan, which probably has the highest number of centenarians in the world, is estimated to have only 51,376 people aged over 100)!

The AU and ZESN also noted a worryingly high number of cases of “assisted voting” (officially designed to help illiterate voters – about 90% of the Zimbabwean population is literate). This was more pronounced in rural areas – according to the ZESN, over 25 people were ‘assisted’ to vote in 49% of rural polling stations, against 5% of urban polling stations.

Again, both the AU and ZESN voiced concern over the high number of voters turned away for administrative reasons at polling stations. This was especially the case in urban areas – the ZESN found that 82% of urban polling stations turned away potential voters for administrative reasons, compared with only 38% of rural stations.

Other concerns related to the election itself include the printing of 35% extra ballot papers, the late publication of the list of polling stations, intimidation of voters in rural areas, registration slips which might have allowed many ‘fake voters’ to vote and bused in voters. In addition, the control of public state-owned media by ZANU-PF and the open hostility of the security forces towards the opposition added to the poor electoral environment.

One of the nine commissioners of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), Mkhululi Nyathi, resigned citing concerns about how the polls were proclaimed and conducted.

In contrast with the aftermath of the 2008 election, the reaction to the results has been fairly subdued. Although he rejected the results, Tsvangirai fell short of calling on his supporters to take to the streets in protests, fearing a repeat of the post-electoral violence in 2008. There have been no large pro or anti-Mugabe rallies so far. Many MDC supporters, concentrated in urban areas, are angry and shocked, but they probably fear for their personal safety if they were to protest against the results. Others seem more anxious to get on with their lives, and will grudgingly accept the result.

However, given the size of Mugabe’s landslide victory, it is possible that such a victory might not be explained by rigging/fraud alone. Mugabe won by 938,085 votes – such a massive margin makes it even less likely that Tsvangirai’s legal challenge(s) will succeed and raises questions about whether or not the margin is only the work of foul play by ZANU-PF and the government.

The MDC said it was certain that it would win before the election, and after the election, it has still proclaimed its victory. The opposition likely underestimated the strength and size of bedrock support for ZANU-PF and perhaps the degree of disillusion, apathy and disenchantment with the MDC after four tortuous years of a “national unity” government with ZANU-PF.

Tsvangirai’s star has faded pretty significantly since 2009. Sex scandals endlessly played up by ZANU-PF seriously undermined his credibility. He and other MDC leaders also face accusations that they lost touch with poorer, ordinary Zimbabweans after entering government in 2009 and enjoying the perks of power. After three successive defeats going up against Mugabe, Tsvangirai, who is only 61, might face challenges to his leadership as some voices within MDC clamor for a ‘rejuvenation’ of party ranks. Even after Mugabe dies, it is increasingly unlikely that Tsvangirai will be accepted as a successor, as some earlier rumours of a potential post-Mugabe deal between moderates in ZANU-PF and the MDC indicated. The outgoing finance minister, Tendai Biti, who is 45, is cited as a potential successor, but it is suggested that his intellectual image might put off some of Tsvangirai’s working poor supporters.

Tsvangirai and the MDC made a number of miscalculations in the past year(s). His biggest blunder was to participate in an hastily-organized July 31 election, likely knowing full well that such an early date was tailor made for Mugabe and that the electoral process – notably with voter registration – was prone to be marred by irregularities. The SADC allegedly told Tsvangirai in May or June not to participate in early elections, but Tsvangirai was too confident that he would win despite ZANU-PF’s dirty tricks that he ignored the advice. In dong so, Tsvangirai allowed himself to be outmaneuvered and steamrolled by ZANU-PF yet again. This apparent gullibility and naivete is another factor which might increase anti-Tsvangirai sentiments within the MDC.

Zimbabwe 2013 - Parliament

Results of the 2013 Zimbabwean parliamentary elections (own map, based on an outline map by Adam Carr)

The Guardian‘s data blog has an interactive map of the Zimbabwe election results, although only for the lower house. If 2008 is any indication, parliamentary results tend to be very similar to presidential results at the constituency level. In parliamentary elections, in which the MDC won only 49 out of 210 seats (against 160 for ZANU-PF), the opposition’s support was confined to its core urban strongholds – Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Gwero and other smaller urban centres. In Bulawayo, Mutare and Gwero, the opposition still won all the seats. It suffered some loses in Harare, where it had won all but one of the capital’s 29 seats in 2008. This year, ZANU-PF managed to win 6 out of 29 seats in Harare, although the MDC held most of its other seats in the capital’s metro by huge margins.

In rural areas, with the exception of the Binga and Hwange districts in Matabeleland North province, ZANU-PF won nearly everything – in the vast majority of cases, with huge margins. Somewhat questionably, ZANU-PF was able to win every seat in Matabeleland South, where the smaller MDC faction had won 7 seats in 2010. The MDC suffered very heavy loses, for whatever reason, in Masvingo province, where it had performed very well in 2008.

In general, the opposition again tended to perform significantly better in Ndebele-populated regions (Matabeleland) or other ‘minority’ regions (the Tonga-populated Binga and Hwange districts, the Manyika and Ndau Shona sub-groups in Manicaland). As is usually the case, ZANU-PF won landslides in the rural Shona provinces (Mashonaland).

What next for Zimbabwe? Tsvangirai’s legal challenges will go nowhere, and Mugabe will be inaugurated for another term in office, probably without too much disturbances. With such a large parliamentary majority, the chaotic and uneasy power-sharing government will obviously go to the dustbins and ZANU-PF will regain full power over the government. With a three-fourths majority in the lower house (and probably a similar one in the upper house), ZANU-PF will have the power to amend the new constitution on its own. The justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa – who regained his parliamentary seat, lost to the MDC in 2008 – said that the new constitution “will need cleaning up” although it is unclear which provisions need to be cleaned up – perhaps those limiting presidential powers and imposing term limits.

Mugabe is 89, and although he shows no signs of impeding death, one may legitimately wonder whether he will live to 2018 – at which point he’ll be 94 years old. It’s quite possible that Mugabe will die in office during this term, something which, as detailed above, may spark some kind of succession conflict within ZANU-PF – probably between Vice President Joice Mujuru and hardline defense minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

With ZANU-PF in full control, and with regional backing, it will be able to push forward with its controversial “indigenisation” platform. This has led some to think that – combined with continued Western sanctions and declining foreign investment – Zimbabwe’s economy will sink back into the “lost decade” of hyperinflation and economic collapse. At the very least, ZANU-PF retaking full control over Zimbabwean politics means a return to the economic and political volatility of yesteryears.

How will ZANU-PF start dealing with the ever-more important issue of Zimbabwe without Mugabe? How will the opposition manage to lick its wounds and regroup after a startling defeat of this size? What does this election mean for Zimbabwe’s economy and political system? Those are the three most important questions which come out of this election.

North Cyprus (TRNC) 2013

Early legislative elections were held in the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), or North Cyprus, on July 28, 2013. The Assembly of the Republic (Cumhuriyet Meclisi) is composed of 50 members elected for five-year terms by open list proportional representation (5% threshold). Voters may either vote for a party – in which case their votes go for every candidate on the party’s list – or they may split their votes themselves among several candidates from different parties. Legislators are elected in five multi-member constituencies – corresponding to the five administrative districts of North Cyprus. Lefkoşa (Nicosia) elects the most members, 16, followed by Gazimağusa (Famagusta) with 13 seats; Girne (Kyrenia) with 9 seats and İskele and Güzelyurt with 6 seats each.

Unlike the Republic of Cyprus, which is a presidential republic, the TRNC is a semi-presidential republic. The President, directly elected to a five-year term, has a more symbolic role as the guarantor of national unity and acting above partisan politics. He appoints high-ranking public officials, such as judges, and nominates the Prime Minister, but he has no veto power over legislation and the Prime Minister is responsible to the legislature. However, the President of the TRNC does maintain a significant profile as North Cyprus’ main representative in foreign affairs and diplomatic relations – given the Cyprus dispute, this means that the President is seen by the UN and the international community as the chief negotiator for Turkish Cypriots. The Prime Minister is responsible to the unicameral legislature, and holds most powers over domestic politics.

Background on the Cyprus dispute

Cyprus has been divided in two since 1974, when Turkey invaded the island and occupied the northern third of the island. The Republic of Cyprus is recognized as having de jure sovereignty over the whole island by the international community (except Turkey), but de facto it has only controlled the southern two-thirds of the island. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Turkey and exercises de facto sovereignty over about 35% of the island (against 60% for the Greek Cypriot-controlled Republic of Cyprus). The Republic of Cyprus has been a member state of the EU since 2004; while, officially, the entire island is a member of the EU because the TRNC is not recognized bu the EU, only the area controlled by the Republic of Cyprus enjoys the benefits of EU membership.

There has been a Turkish Cypriot minority on the island since the Ottoman Empire conquered Cyprus from the Venetians in 1570-1571. Over history, the size of Turkish Cypriot population has fluctuated – with a general decline observable since the nineteenth century – but it has generally hovered near 20% of the entire island’s population in the past decades. About a quarter of the entire Cypriot population currently lives in the TRNC, although these numbers include a large number of recent settlers from mainland Turkey which the Greek Cypriot government – backed by the international community – regards as “illegal migrants”.

Historically, the two ethnic communities on the island – Greeks and Turks – have identified politically, culturally, linguistically and religiously with Greece and Turkey respectively. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, both ethnic communities were transformed into mutually exclusive national communities, which further reinforced existing ethnic divisions and attachments to the “mother” country. As a legacy of the Ottoman millet system – which Britain continued after it took control of the island in 1878 (and officially annexed it as a crown colony in 1914) – both communities went their own separate ways. The Turkish Cypriots developed their own national consciousness slightly later than the Greeks, concomitantly with the rise of the Young Turks movement in Turkey and, later, Kemalist Turkish nationalism. Like Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots were socialized in an environment which emphasized belonging to the Turkish nation(-state, after 1923), and, by consequence, rejection of the ‘other’ (Greek Cypriots). Turkish Cypriots enthusiastically embraced Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s secular Turkish nationalism. Although religion certainly played a role in the national division of the Cypriot population, the main distinctions in the twentieth century were far more ethnic than religious – Turkish Cypriots identified as Turkish, not as Muslim (although Greek Cypriots remained extremely religious in the same period).

The anti-colonial struggle in Cyprus was never one for Cypriot independence. The Greek Cypriot dream was that of enosis, or political union with Greece. Eventually, enosis in the abstract was endorsed by all Greek Cypriot actors – including the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church. For Turkish Cypriots, enosis was clearly unpalatable. Their national expression took the form of taksim, or partition, with the Turkish Cypriot community joining with Turkey. During the 1950s, Turkish Cypriots clashed with Greek Cypriot nationalists – the British authorities recruited Turkish Cypriots against the Greek Cypriot nationalist rebel organization (EOKA), and in 1958 Turkish Cypriots formed the Turkish Resistance Organization (TMT) to counter EOKA’s enotist violence. EOKA’s violence was both an anti-colonial struggle against Britain and a bloody ethnic conflict with Turkish Cypriots

Cypriot independence in 1960 was a compromise solution which pleased neither community but was the only feasible solution short of enosis or taksim. However, the power-sharing structure of the 1960 constitution soon proved unworkable because neither side – particularly the Greek Cypriot majority – had little interest in its success. In 1963, Greek Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios, responding to the deadlock resulting from the power-sharing institutional structure, proposed 13 constitutional amendments which would effectively abolish power-sharing in favour of traditional majority (ie: Greek Cypriot) rule. In 1963, enosis remained the ultimate goal of most Greek Cypriots – including Makarios – and independence was seen as a means to that end.

Intercommunal violence fighting broke out in December 1963, a throwback to the clashes between EOKA and TMT prior to 1960. Hundreds of civilians on both sides were killed, and Turkey threatened to intervene militarily until the US forced Ankara to back down. As a result of the 1963-1964 violence, Turkish Cypriots self-segregated into a number of enclaves throughout the island and withdrew from the political institutions of the Republic of Cyprus – which became a Greek Cypriot state. Self-segregated and enclaved, domestic political leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community was ensured by the Turkish Cypriot Vice President Fazıl Küçük and, later, the former leader of TMT, Rauf Denktaş. Fighting broke out again in 1967, and Turkey once again threatened to invade.

There was a thaw in intercommunal conflict after 1967, and there were renewed negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots – although, like all talks which preceded and would follow, they proved unsuccessful. While intercommunal relations improved marginally after 1967, there were increasing tensions within the Greek Cypriot community. Makarios had progressively abandoned enosis, regarding it as unfeasible, and became a keen defender of Greek Cypriot independence. This displeased several radical nationalists, such as former EOKA leader George Grivas, who began plotting Makarios’ demise – in close collaboration with the new Greek military junta – after 1970. Dimitrios Ioannides’ accession to power in Athens in late 1973 brought things ever closer to conflagration, given that Ioannides had a pathological dislike of Makarios – who he saw as a communist and obstacle to enosis.

In July 1974, Greece – working with Grivas’ intransigent enotist terrorist organization EOKA-B – staged a coup in Nicosia, removing Makarios from office. The man installed in his stead was Nikos Sampson, described as “a gorilla-type with no compunctions against murder and assassination” and one who prided himself on having murdered Turks. Ioannides and Sampson’s intent was probably not to bring about confrontation with Turkey, but more likely to remove Makarios – seen as an obstacle – and enter direct negotiations with Turkey over enosis with compensation (likely military concessions to Turkey on the island). Turkey, however, did not see it thus and felt that Sampson would launch a genocide of Turkish Cypriots unless he was stopped. Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974 – five days after the coup.

Three days later, Turkey agreed to a cease-fire. That same day, the Greek military regime collapsed – the politicians and military officers had finally grown a pair and refused to endorse Ioannides’ plan for all-out war with Turkey. Sampson’s government, similarly, collapsed in the absence of his benefactors in Athens. After talks between the various parties in Geneva failed, Turkey launched a second invasion in mid-August 1974, breaking out of cease-fire lines and seizing nearly 40% of the island – the northern half of the island, including the major seaports of Kyrenia and Famagusta and the northern half of the capital, Nicosia. Up to 200,000 Greek Cypriots living in the northern half of the island became refugees, forced to abandon their property and flee to the south. Some 50,000 Turkish Cypriots living in the south were re-settled in the north.

Turkey, to this day, claims that its military intervention was justified under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, which gave Cyprus’ three ‘guarantor powers’ (Greece, Turkey and the UK) the right to intervene – militarily if needed – to restore the intent of the 1960 constitution. This interpretation has been rejected by the entirety of the international community/the UN, which contends the invasion was illegal and has urged all states to deny diplomatic recognition to the TRNC.

In 1983, the Turkish Cypriots unilaterally declared independence as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized as a sovereign state only by Turkey. The Greek Cypriot government, and most of the international community, regard the TRNC as an illegitimate and illegal Turkish pupper state/protectorate under continued Turkish military occupation. As a result, foreign trade with the TRNC is extremely restricted, and the TRNC’s main points of entry (harbours and airports) are unrecognized – thus effectively closed. International flights to and from the TRNC, for example, must have a stopover in Turkey.

After the invasion, Turkey encouraged a large number of settlers from mainland Turkey to move to North Cyprus. The international community and the Republic of Cyprus argue that this immigration contravenes international law, and the Greek Cypriot treats these settlers as “illegal aliens” and does not include them in their population counts for the entire island. It is unclear how many settlers have been brought over to North Cyprus; the Republic of Cyprus government often likes to claim that they constitute a majority of the TRNC’s population, and that native Turkish Cypriots are a minority. According to the TRNC’s 2006 census, 27.5% of the TRNC’s residents are only Turkish citizens (an additional 13% have dual TRNC-Turkish citizenship). Of those who are citizens of the TRNC, 63% were born in the TRNC, 18.3% were born in the south and 15.6% were born in Turkey. Overall, 45% of the TRNC’s resident population was born in the TRNC, 12.7% were born in the south and 37% (94.7k) were born in Turkey.

There have been countless attempts at a negotiated settlement since 1974. Invariably, all of these talks broke down, although both sides managed to agree early on that the framework for any solution would need to be federal, bi-zonal and bi-communal. The blockage points have often been the same over the years: the constitutional framework of the new state (with Turkish Cypriots advocating for a more confederal structure, and Greeks for a more centralized federation), refugees’ right of return (Greek Cypriots wants refugees to be able to return and reclaim their lost property in the north), the nature of the ‘bi-zonal/bi-communal’ state (should Greek Cypriots be allowed to settle freely in the north?), the withdrawal of Turkish troops (which Turkish Cypriots feel are essential for their security) and the rights/repatriation of Turkish settlers (Greek Cypriots would like to see most of them leave). During all these fruitless talks, most laid the blame on TRNC President Rauf Denktaş, who was widely perceived – quite rightfully – as an intransigent hardliner hostile to any settlement. However, in almost all talks, both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots have stuck to maximalist positions.

In 2004, the Annan Plan – named after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan – was the closest both sides came to agreement. While 65% of Turkish Cypriots voted in favour, nearly 76% of Greek Cypriots voted against. Greek Cypriots had little incentive to support the plan, given that they were to join the EU regardless six days later. Furthermore, they were unwilling to shoulder the costs of reunification with the poorer north and had several legitimate concerns with the content of the plan (the proposed constitutional framework and the issue of Turkish troops most notably). For Turkish Cypriots, however, the prospect of EU membership and the benefits that went along far outweighed any concerns with the content of the plan. The 2004 referendum marked a change in perceptions of the international community – frustration was now directed towards Greek Cypriots, seen as intransigent, while Turkish Cypriots became viewed in a more positive light.

The Greek Cypriots felt that they could use their EU membership as a tool to exert more pressure on Turkey and North Cyprus to reach a solution on their terms. As EU members, they have used their weight to block EU attempts to normalize relations with the TRNC, in the form of easing trade restrictions and 259 million euro in aid.

The election of Dimitris Christofias, a pro-reunification communist, to the Greek Cypriot presidency in 2008 was welcomed by many as a positive development, especially given his close ties with then-TRNC President Mehmet Ali Talat, who is pro-reunification. However, talks between Christofias and Talat were unsuccessful. Talat’s defeat in 2010 and his replacement by nationalist candidate Derviş Eroğlu was considered a setback, although talks continued after Eroğlu’s victory – again, with no success or resolution in sight. The new President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, had endorsed the Annan Plan in 2004 and is considered as pro-reunification. However, talks remain on the ice and are a secondary concern for both sides, particularly the Greek Cypriots given the major economic crisis in Cyprus.

TRNC Parties and issues

There seems to be a common misconception that the TRNC is a rogue Turkish puppet state under military occupation/rule; a view which the Republic of Cyprus does little to counter. For example, the Greek Cypriot government and media often refers to any political developments in the north using scare quotes – referring to the “TRNC” “government”.

In reality, the TRNC is a multiparty democracy, elections are free and fair, and it is considered a ‘free country’. Freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly and association are generally respected (see Freedom in the World‘s 2013 report). However, male homosexuality remains illegal and is punishable with jail time.

Of course, the TRNC remains heavily dependent on Turkey – politically, militarily and economically – so to a certain extent it could be seen as a Turkish protectorate/puppet state. Ankara itself feels that it has the final word on political decisions on the TRNC, and especially under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan it has not hesitated to step in over the head of the TRNC leadership on issues of direct interest to Turkey (first and foremost, the Cyprus dispute). Few political decisions in the TRNC are taken without Turkish approval. On the ground, the TRNC’s police forces are under the control of the Turkish military.

The dominant party in TRNC politics has generally been the National Unity Party (Ulusal Birlik Partisi, UBP), a right-wing nationalist party founded by former TRNC President Rauf Denktaş in 1975. The UBP has opposed reunification, either unofficially by blocking talks or outright by declaring openly its support for the status-quo and de facto partition of the island. Up until the 1990s and 2000s, the UBP held a dominant position in Turkish Cypriot politics and most voters endorsed Rauf Denktaş’ nationalist stances. However, tensions grew within the party as a result of clashes between President Denktaş and Prime Minister Derviş Eroğlu (1985-1993).

In 1993, they suffered their first defeat in legislative elections because the creation, from pro-Denktaş UBP MPs, of Democratic Party (DP) which formed a coalition with the leftist Republican Turkish Party (CTP). The UBP returned to power in 1996, with Eroğlu serving as Prime Minister until 2003. In the early 2000s, voters increasingly opposed the UBP and Denktaş’ hardline anti-reunification stance due to growing economic difficulties. The UBP lost the 2003 elections to the pro-reunification CTP, and CTP leader Mehmet Ali Talat became the TRNC’s second president in 2005, when Denktaş retired.

Rauf Denktaş and Derviş Eroğlu’s hardline anti-reunification positions and their opposition to the Annan Plan in 2004 seriously irked Turkey. After Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the 2002 elections in Turkey, Ankara pursued a pro-European policy, eyeing EU membership. It came to view the Cyprus dispute as a major roadblock to its own EU aspirations, and Erdoğan exerted significant pressure on Denktaş to prove more conciliatory in the talks which led to the Annan Plan.

After the referendum, the UBP has somewhat moderated its nationalist positions. In the 2005 election (which it lost), the UBP emphasized that it supported a solution, but that it should be on Turkish Cypriots’ terms. In the 2010 presidential election, UBP candidate Derviş Eroğlu repeated that negotiations would continue without conditions if he won (as he did).

In the early 2000s, the Republican Turkish Party (Cumhuriyetçi Türk Partisi, CTP) became the main opposition to the UBP and the standard-bearer of pro-reunification voters. The CTP was founded in 1970 by an anti-Denktaş lawyer. Between 1976 and 1996, the CTP, led by Özker Özgür, was a very left-wing (pro-Soviet/socialist) party and fairly weak force in TRNC politics (although its vote share increased from 13% to 24% between 1976 and 1993). After 1996, Mehmet Ali Talat moved to the party towards the centre, mellowing the leftist nature of the party and building closer ties with pro-reunification business leaders.

In the 2003 elections, fought over the Annan Plan, the UBP suffered major loses while the CTP’s vote share went from 13% (1998) to 35%. However, the CTP and a smaller pro-reunification party only won 25 seats altogether, exactly half of the Assembly. It formed a governing coalition with the Democratic Party (DP), which was neutral on the hot issue of reunification. In the 2005 elections, there was still significant optimism in North Cyprus that things would get better despite the failure of the Annan Plan; a feeling bred by the perception that the international community would be more understanding and conciliatory with the TRNC after they had supported the Annan Plan. The CTP campaigned on a platform promoting international and European integration, promising to improve living conditions and breaking the TRNC’s isolation. The CTP won 45% in the legislative elections and Talat was elected president by the first round, taking 55% of the vote.

Disappointment quickly set in, however. The EU promised to ease restrictions on trade and to provide 259 million euros in aid, but these promises quickly got squashed by Greek Cypriot opposition. Similarly, new regulations in 2004 aimed at liberalizing the movement of goods and persons across the partition line (Green Line) were quite watered down and did not mark a significant change. However, travel across the line was made much simpler and Turkish Cypriots were able to obtain Republic of Cyprus/EU passports (although in 2008, Turkey banned Turkish Cypriots from leaving the country through Turkey without TRNC passports). The CTP government also operated a number of changes aimed at reconciliation: it changed the education curriculum to promote a less biased, less nationalist view of history; it formed a property commission to adjudicate complaints related to property disputes.

As noted above, there was early hope that Dimitris Christofias’ election in the south in 2008 would boost talks with the TRNC. After all, the CTP was seen as the northern ‘sister party’ of Christofias’ Greek Cypriot communist party (AKEL) and both men were on good terms with one another. However, there was little progress and the Greek Cypriot government continued to act in a fashion which many Turkish Cypriots interpreted to mean that they were unwilling to accept a power-sharing solution.

The TRNC’s economy boomed between 2004 and 2007, thanks to a major growth in tourist investment and construction (many foreigners began buying holiday homes in the TRNC). The right criticized the CTP for distributing economic gains through wage increases for civil servants and workers. After 2007, when the economic crisis began to set in, the CTP’s policies – increasing the prices of goods and services – were unpopular. The CTP lost the support of business leaders and right-wing voters who had backed it in the 2003 and 2005 elections.

The CTP suffered a major defeat in the 2009 legislative elections, winning only 29% to the UBP’s 44%. In 2010, Talat lost reelection to UBP Derviş Eroğlu, 50% to 43% in the first round. All in all, the 2009-2010 elections reflected dissatisfaction and disillusion with the CTP’s promises of international and European integration. The vote against the CTP could be read both as a rebuke of Talat and the CTP’s domestic policies, but also as a rebuke of the EU which Turkish Cypriots felt failed to live up to its promises.

The Democratic Party (Demokrat Parti, DP) has been the kingmaker party in Turkish Cypriot legislative politics. The DP was founded in 1992 by nine dissident pro-Denktaş UBP parliamentarians who opposed then-Prime Minister Derviş Eroğlu’s governing style. The DP has been led, in fact, by Rauf Denktaş’ son, Serdar Denktaş. The DP is a fairly weird beast, in that its ranks historically included people close to the nationalist Rauf Denktaş and others who were more liberal, moderate. Serdar Denktaş himself has tended to be more moderate on the Cyprus dispute than his late father; one author said that while Rauf Denktaş was a Turkish nationalist, Serdar Denktaş was more of a Turkish Cypriot nationalist. The DP was neutral on the Annan Plan; it says that it was more honest and realistic than either the CTP or the UBP in that they gave the pros and cons of the plan, critics of the party say that it is vague and without clear positions. In the 2003, 2005 and 2009 legislative elections, the DP took moderate stances, reflecting its nature as the kingmaker party. The DP formed government with the CTP between 1993 and 1996, with the UBP between 1996 and 1998 and with the CTP again between 2003 and 2006.

The DP’s support has declined since its creation; from 29% in 1993 its support fell to only 11% in 2009. Despite the historical enmity between Denktaş and Eroğlu (Eroğlu ran – and lost – against Rauf Denktaş in the 2000 presidential election), the DP supported Eroğlu in 2010.

The Communal Democracy Party (Toplumcu Demokrasi Partisi, TDP) is a small left-wing party founded in 2007, as a continuation of the social democratic Communal Liberation Party (TKP), founded in 1976, and the Peace and Democracy Movement (BDH). The TKP was originally a social democratic alternative to the right-wing UBP, more moderate than the hard-left CTP. However, the roles switched after 2003, when the CTP moved towards the centre and allied with right-wing forces. The TDP, similarly to the CTP, supports Cypriot reunification (and EU membership) and its component parties enthusiastically endorsed the Annan Plan in 2004.

The TDP, and the TKP/BDH before it, tends to be the most anti-Turkey of all the main parties (although not openly so). It emphasizes a Turkish Cypriot identity, reaching out to ‘native’ Turkish Cypriots as opposed to Turkish migrants.

A number of smaller parties have come and gone over the years, most of them representing more sectarian causes or minority political opinions (radical nationalism/far-right, Turkish settlers, ‘native Cypriots’ etc). The Freedom and Reform Party (Özgürlük ve Reform Partisi, ÖRP), born in fairly controversial circumstances in 2006, won 2 seats in 2009. It was created by 3 dissident UBP MPs and one DP MP; its foundation coincided with the breakdown of the CTP-DP coalition reelected in 2005, the ÖRP proceeded to take the DP’s place in the coalition. Some alleged that the Turkish AKP was involved in the party’s creation to reduce the influence of the Denktaş clan, which was very critical of the AKP. It seems to have folded back into the UBP by now.

Only one small party contested this election, the United Cyprus Party (Birleşik Kıbrıs Partisi, BKP), a strongly pro-reunification socialist splinter from the CTP founded in 2002. The BKP strongly emphasizes the ‘native Cypriot’ identity, and warns native Turkish Cypriots of the risk of becoming a minority in their country because of Turkish immigration.

With the exception of the 2003 and 2005 elections, most elections have been fought over domestic issues – and by consequence a more familiar left-right battle. Domestic issues, notably the TRNC’s economic health, made their return in the 2009 and 2010 elections, playing against the incumbent CTP.

The TRNC, in good part because of the international embargo against it, is poorer and less economically developed than the Greek Cypriot south. As a result, it is heavily dependent on Turkish economic support – Ankara provides the TRNC government with aid and money. Between 1974 and 2004, Turkey provided $3.07 billion of financial aid to the TRNC, and Ankara invested in numerous infrastructure projects. In 2008, Turkish aid and credits constituted 38% of government revenue. The Turkish Cypriot economy has traditionally been quite reliant on a very large public sector, and the TRNC government has contracted large deficits as a result of spending heavily on generous wages and pensions. Most imports come from Turkey, most exports go to Turkey. The TRNC’s economy has performed better since 2004, notably with a tourism boom

In the past months, we have heard a whole lot about the economic crisis in the Greek Cypriot south, derived from the banking crisis – the IMF bailout, the very controversial ‘haircut’ of large depositors and austerity measures imposed by the IMF. Yet, the TRNC is going through a similar round of austerity measures – except that there is no IMF, rather the TRNC’s IMF is Turkey itself. Turkish Cypriot economic policy has been directed by Turkey, through bilateral economic protocols, in which Ankara imposes its own macroeconomic policy direction on the TRNC. The latest protocol was signed in December 2012; it includes reducing government intervention, transforming the state into a ‘regulatory state’, reducing patronage, ‘efficiency’ in the public sector and boosting the role of the private sector.

The most controversial aspect of the Turkey-TRNC protocol is privatization: electricity, telecommunications and harbours will be privatized in 2013. Turkish Cypriots leftists and trade unions have opposed the protocol; they claim it does nothing to address certain issues (roadblocks faced by exporters, how to boost private investment, the working conditions in the private sector) and the claim that the state-owned companies will be sold off to Turkish capital groups aligned with the AKP is ruffling feathers. In 2011, thousands of Turkish Cypriots had already protested against Turkish-imposed austerity measures. Turkey retorts that if its measures are not adopted, the TRNC – which has a very large public debt (estimated at 145% of GDP) – will face bankruptcy. Furthermore, Turkey threatens to cut off the flow of cash which the TRNC needs to pay its public servants.

UBP Prime Minister İrsen Küçük’s government fell in May 2013 after eight UBP MPs resigned from the governing party and supported a vote of no-confidence brought forward by the CTP, DP and TDP. Trouble had been brewing within the governing party for about a year, with the eight dissidents undermining Küçük’s leadership and supporting a leadership challenge against him in February. They criticized the Prime Minister for having changed the face of the party “beyond recognition”, claiming it was now characterized by bribes, nepotism and corruption. Küçük was also criticized by the public for being too keen to support Turkey’s austerity policies. Some say Erdoğan’s hand in the fall of the government, arguing that it was all part of the Turkish Prime Minister’s strategy to weaken President Eroğlu, who isn’t on good term with Erdoğan since the 2004 Annan Plan referendum.

İrsen Küçük was replaced as Prime Minister by Sibel Siber (CTP), the TRNC’s first woman Prime Minister, who formed a caretaker government made up of the opposition parties (CTP, DP, TDP).


Turnout was approximately 69.6%, a major decline from 2009 (81%) and 2010 (76%), and likely the lowest turnout in Turkish Cypriot history. This likely reflects dissatisfaction with the major parties; but also the poor timing of the vote – during the Muslim month of Ramadan and while many were abroad on summer holidays.

CTP 38.38% (+9.23%) winning 21 seats (+6)
UBP 27.33% (-16.74%) winning 14 seats (-12)
DP 23.16% (+12.51%) winning 12 seats (+7)
TDP 7.41% (+0.54%) winning 3 seats (+1)
BKP 3.15% (+0.73%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Independents 0.57% (+0.43%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Lefkoşa (Nicosia) 41.33% 24.43% 21.83% 6.99% 4.29% 1.15%
Gazimağusa (Famagusta) 36.03% 27.69% 26.07% 7.66% 2.32% 0.23%
Girne (Kyrenia) 37.41% 31.27% 20.5% 8.28% 2.55% 0.15%
Güzelyurt (Morphou) 37.6% 32.82% 19.99% 6.83% 2.76%
İskele (Trikomo) 32.21% 28.88% 30.34% 7.5% 1.07%

The pro-reunification CTP won the most votes and seats in the election, a significant increase on its poor performance in the 2009 elections (when it won only 29.2%). The CTP’s strong result is likely due to opposition to the Turkish austerity protocol, which was very poorly received by the left and the CTP’s traditional trade unionist allies. However, there appears to be little optimism left in the CTP – either for a resolution to the Cyprus dispute or a change in economic policy.

In contrast, the UBP suffered very significant loses. 27.3% is the UBP’s worst performance in a legislative election. Former Prime Minister İrsen Küçük lost his seat, a major rebuke to the former head of government, which could also be interpreted as a major rebuke for Ankara given Küçük’s reputation as pro-Ankara.

The major winner was Serdar Denktaş’ DP, which, after years of near-constant decline – down to barely 11% in the last election – did extremely well, winning 23.2%, its second best result after its inaugural election (1993: 29%). The DP benefit from defections from the UBP and voter dissatisfaction with both major parties. Additionally, Serdar Denktaş’ eleventh-hour declaration that he opposed Turkey’s privatization plans may have boosted his party’s support.

The CTP did best in Lefkoşa District, a traditional stronghold of the left and the district which saw the strongest support for the Annan Plan in 2004. With one exception, İskele, the CTP’s votes were fairly evenly distributed in the other districts, as is usually the case. The DP performed best in İskele and Gazimağusa districts, winning 30.3% and 26.1% respectively. Both of these districts have a large Turkish settler population which traditionally splits its votes between the Denktaş’ clan’s DP and the nationalist UBP, with the CTP doing quite poorly with those votes. This is particularly true in İskele, an impoverished and isolated district covering the Karpass peninsula – it has a very high settler population, and had the highest amount of ‘no’ votes in the 2004 referendum.

There are three potential governing coalitions which could come out of this election, and all of them promise to be quite fractious. The most likely option is a CTP-DP coalition, similar to that which governed between 2003 and 2006. The DP is a kingmaker party and has little problems in governing with the CTP. However, there is potentially some leftover bad blood between the two parties – in 2006, the DP was kicked out of the coalition in favour of the nascent ÖRP, which the DP is convinced was the result of a plot between the CTP and the AKP to remove them from government. Both the CTP and DP are more anti-Ankara and cooler on the Turkish austerity measures, but the CTP has hinted that it will have no choice but to approve them anyway (although it says it will “do its best” to alter parts which they say are damaging to Turkish Cypriots).

On the off chance that a CTP-DP coalition falls through, the two other options are a grand coalition between the CTP and UBP, or a nationalistic coalition of the UBP and DP. A CTP-UBP coalition is said to be Ankara’s preferred option, given that it would likely adhere to the Turkey-TRNC protocol and be more conciliatory when another round of talks with the south are due to kick off in October. However, it is hard to see the CTP and UBP agreeing to govern together. The other option is a UBP-DP coalition. Given that the DP brought down the UBP in May and that a lot of the DP’s caucus likely consists of UBP defectors, it is tough to see both parties patching up again. Such a government would be the most hardline in talks with the south, which the AKP certainly wouldn’t appreciate.

What is likely to change? Not much. The top concern for voters in this election, like for Greek Cypriots in the presidential elections earlier this year in the Republic of Cyprus, was the economy and austerity policies. On that front, the Turkish government still has the final say over the TRNC’s economy and the structural reforms it wants to implement. Ankara has not hesitated to lay it out clearly: accept our terms, or we’ll cut off the cash and you won’t be able to pay public servants. The TRNC’s parties and politicians, even if they all quite enjoy pretending that they’re important and that they can tell Turkey what to do, has little choice but to bow down to their IMF’s directives.

The other issue, always hiding somewhere in Cypriot politics, is the Cyprus dispute. Talks – yet again – will open in October. At this point, few regular people seem to care much about it. The Greek Cypriots are unlikely to have much appetite to take these talks further and they have more important things on their plate at the moment. The Turkish Cypriots are exhausted by the talks, and Eroğlu is saying that the October talks will be the “last chance”. Turkey still favours a solution, and Turkish Cypriots on the whole probably do to, but both seem to understand that a negotiated settlement is looking ever more unlikely. The Republic of Cyprus can continue to play games and put the TRNC in scare quotes, but since 2004 the status-quo – as a EU member state – has become a more attractive solution than the painful give-and-take compromises reunification would necessarily involve.