Thursday, 6 April 2017

Meanwhile, in recent elections across the world...

Whilst I and others have been so busy during the last two weeks, many different elections have been occurring across the world: the Bulgarian parliamentary election of 2017, the Saarland state election in Germany, five federal Canadian by-elections, the Ecuadorean Presidential election, and the Armenian Parliamentary election.

The Bulgarian Parliamentary election of 2017 resulted in another win for Boyko Borisov and his pro-European conservative (liberal conservative) party, GERB; however, the social-democratic Coalition for Bulgaria, KB, also more than doubled its 2014 seat total. However, if you look further back in Bulgarian electoral history, this represents more of a rebound for both parties, who were reduced from 97 seats to 84 and 84 seats to 39 in 2014. Despite suffering a setback after his preferred candidate, Tsetska Tsacheva, lost the Bulgarian Presidential election last year, causing his resignation of Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov will once again retain the position of Prime Minister he has held since 2009 by forming yet another coalition. As a result of this rebound towards the two major parties, the Reformist Bloc was decimated, losing all 23 of its seats by falling below the 4% threshold; they could only manage 3.06%. The Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV) also lost all the seats it had obtained in 2014; this is evidence that tactical voting can somehow occur in proportional representation, particularly if the new parties turn out not to be different enough from the mainstream. This particular election represents the best performance by a green movement in Bulgaria to date, with Yes, Bulgaria (an alliance of green liberal Yes Bulgaria, The Bulgarian Green Party and DEOS) managing 2.88%, but this was still not enough to win any parliamentary seats. It is nonetheless a showing of the increasing importance of green politics around the world, and particularly outside of Western and Northern Europe where the green political base is the strongest worldwide.

The Greens were also out of luck in Saarland, Germany, by losing their only two seats in that Landtag; Saarland has the lowest level of Green support in Germany at a local and federal level. A minor FDP revival is partly to blame for this, as both parties are better at winning over affluent, young and intellectual voters than the CDU, SPD, or Die Linke. Alternative fur Deutschland appeals more to the disaffected and poor, amongst both young and older voters. AfD's star is fading, though, as it only picked up 6.2% and 3 seats, and this occurred even though Saarland feels psephologically more like an East German province than a West German province, with its high support for Die Linke and poor support for either the Greens or the FDP. Despite being a thorn in the side of the CDU, AfD actually stalled the SPD advance more, as UKIP was once doing to Labour in the UK, and was also able to win over many votes from minor conservative parties and extreme nationalists. The Pirates' downward slide, as expected, continued with them losing all 4 of their seats and their vote share dropping from 7.4% to a derisory 0.7%, finishing only 235 votes ahead of the far-right, racist National Democratic Party (NPD). It has never recovered from any of the scandals that have plagued it these past few years and is effectively finished as a force in German politics; unlike the FDP it lacks the resources or presence needed for any major comeback.

The Ecuadorian elections of 2017 were not as bad for Latin American socialism as the Assembly election of Venezuela last year, but PAIS suffered significantly when Rafael Correa became ineligible to run again as President of Ecuador having served a second term; the loss of his personal vote was widely felt. Lenin Moreno did ensure another PAIS victory, but it was much closer than that of Rafael's, his margin of victory being only 2.30% (or 226,743 votes of the 10,577,982 valid votes cast). PAIS also had its majority sharply reduced in the Assembly election at the same time, from a majority of 63 to a majority of just 11. The opposition remains rather divided, however, with the liberal conservative Creating Opportunities Party winning just 34 seats and the Social Christian Party (traditional Christian democrats) winning only 15 seats; Ecuador does use mixed-member proportional representation but there are more than seven times as many single member constituencies as proportional seats (116 vs.15), with a further six seats reserved for Ecuadorians voting abroad, meaning it is not actually proportional at all. To make the proportional element of MMP meaningful, the number of proportional list seats needs to number at least half the single member constituency seats, and ideally it should be equal to or slightly greater than the number of single member constituency seats, which is the case with the German Bundestag and Lithuanian Parliament.

Of the five federal Canadian by-elections that took place on the same day (3rd April 2017), none changed hands and even Markham-Thornhill, the most marginal of the five ridings that had a by-election that day, only experienced a 5.55% swing from Liberal to Conservative, unusually low by Canadian standards. The New Democrats fell backwards in all of them except for Ottawa-Vanier, where they achieved a 7.9% swing against the Liberals. The shine is starting to come off the Liberals and Justin Trudeau, who has recently reneged on his promise to bring proportional representation to Canada, much to the anger of progressives there, especially when he has also promised advances in relation to abortion rights and cannabis legalisation. The next true test of this will be the British Columbian general election on 9th May, where the Canadian Greens have a chance of making the first true Green surge in Canada (i.e. by winning many seats at the same time rather than just one) given its use of first past the post for elections. None of these five by-elections were in British Columbia, although the fact that Quebecois Green Party Deputy Leader Daniel Green finished ahead of the New Democrats in otherwise ultra-Liberal Saint Laurent is the most notable thing of these five by-elections.

Finally, over to Armenia. Like many members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Armenia is dominated by post-Soviet 'parties of power' (similar to Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party in many ways), and the Republican Party retained power by winning 55 seats out of 101, and it managed this despite a controversial constitutional referendum having eliminated single member constituencies in the Armenian Assembly, making all seats party list seats. Like many CIS states, Armenia has been plagued by corruption and nepotism, with Serzh Sargysan (who many suspect is hoping to become Prime Minister of Armenia after his Presidential term ends to remain in control) being no exception to the rule in practice despite not having as much notoriety as, for example, Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan or Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, and nor is his rule quite as authoritarian. Armenia is relatively democratic by the standards of its neighbours (many Presidential elections in CIS countries like Kazakhstan are just sham elections lacking real choice), although widespread vote-buying and conflicts of interest meant that their elections were still not truly free or fair.

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