Suffragio takes a break — until next week

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Suffragio is on hiatus for the next week — I’ll have extremely minimal access to the Internet, and I’ll be busy meeting new friends in a new place.

In the meanwhile, there’s going to be quite a bit of electoral politics to watch:

  • Ireland Ireland Iconvotes on May 22 in a referendum to permit same-sex marriage. If polls are correct, it would mark the first time an entire country chooses by direct vote to legalize marriage equality. Ireland, however, remains a socially conservative country where the Catholic church’s influence is strong. Abortion was essentially legalized only in 2013, and there’s every possibility that anti-marriage forces could win an upset. Polls may not be accurately capturing ‘shy’ anti-LGBT voters and, although there’s a majority of Irish voters in favor of marriage equality, it might not be as motivated as anti-marriage voters.
    RELATED: Scotland passes same-sex marriage,
    joining England and Wales
  • Ethiopia votes oethiopia_640n May 24 in what it calls an election. But there’s no indication that the vote will be free and fair, especially in a government climate that disrespects press freedom and has suppressed Oromo and other ethnic groups. Prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, a southerner, is the nominal successor to the late Meles Zenawi, but there’s no real indication he is anything more than a figurehead. Meles’s ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, or የኢትዮጵያ ሕዝቦች አብዮታዊ ዲሞክራሲያዊ ግንባር) and, in particular, Tigray figures within its leadership, continue to call the shots.
    RELATED: Can Hailemariam retain power in Ethiopia?
  • Poland vPoland_Flag_Iconotes on May 24 in a runoff to determine the chiefly ceremonial president. Polish president Bronisław Komorowski narrowly trailed his conservative rival Andrzej Duda in the first round on May 10, with over 20% of voters choosing neither candidate and instead supporting former rock musician Paweł Kukiz. The two contenders are now facing a too-close-to-call runoff. If Komorowski loses (and even if he narrowly wins reelection), it could mean trouble for the ruling Platforma Obywatelska (PO, Civic Platform), which has held power since 2007.
    RELATED: Komorowski trails in shock Polish presidential vote result
    RELATEDKopacz puts imprint on Poland’s new government
  • Spain holds regSpain_Flag_Iconional elections on May 24, a harbinger of December’s general election, in 13 of its 17 autonomous communities. The most populous include Madrid, Valencia and Castile and León. The elections will be a test for the two traditional Spanish parties, prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative Partido Popular (PP, People’s Party) and the center-left Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE, Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party), which have both presided over difficult economic conditions and budget contractions in the past six years. It’s also a test for two newer groups that hope to displace them, the anti-austerity, leftist Podemos and the centrist  Ciudadanos (C’s, Citizens).
    RELATED: Socialists thrive in Andalusian regional elections

Upon return, on May 26, I’ll have some brief thoughts on each election and, in particular, Ethiopia, which is one of the most fascinating and dynamic countries in sub-Saharan Africa today, even if its political system remains essentially authoritarian.

On May 31, Italy holds regional elections in several parts of the country, including some of the largest Italian regions like Puglia, Campania, Tuscany and Veneto.

The most important elections of the summer come on one day — June 7. That’s when Mexico holds midterm congressional elections and Turkey holds parliamentary elections.

It’s still a quiet spring and summer for electoral politics after the blitz of 2014’s elections. But there’s still much to look forward to later this autumn — from Guatemala to Canada, from Burma/Myanmar to  Denmark and from Portugal to Argentina. And the lull in electoral politics will provide a chance to delve into the fascinating political dynamics of China and the Middle East — just because a country doesn’t have elections doesn’t mean it doesn’t have politics. Suffragio will be there for all of it.

In the meanwhile…

PPP narrowly defeated by Guyana’s opposition coalition

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It’s easy to forget about the northeastern corner of South America, collectively known as ‘The Guianas,’ which includes two countries (Guyana and Suriname), a French overseas holding (French Guiana) and, sometimes, the sparsely populated eastern Guyana region of Venezuela and Amapá state in northeastern Brazil.Guyana Flag

Those two sovereign countries, Guyana and Suriname, formerly British and Dutch colonies, respectively, are home to just over 1.3 million people. French Guiana, an overseas department of France, and one of the Western Hemisphere’s last vestiges of colonialism, is home to just another 250,000 people.

Even by the standards of Latin America, which is arguably underpopulated (especially in contrast to China, India and other parts of southeastern Asia), the Guianas are some of the least population-dense places on earth. Guyana, home to just 750,000 people, has a population density of around 9.5 per square mile. To put that into perspective, it compares to densities of around 37 for Argentina, 62 for Brazil, 85 for the United States and 158 for Mexico.

Earlier this year, however, Exxon Mobil claimed it discovered offshore oil deposits that could boost the country’s economy, though attempts to extract the oil could draw Venezuelan ire. Nevertheless, the region remains relatively underdeveloped and Guyana is one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries, despite gold and bauxite deposits and steady rice and sugar production. More than 50% of its native population has emigrated — only Nicaragua and Haiti have lower per-capita GDPs.

That’s part of the reason that former army general David Granger (pictured above) led a multi-ethnic coalition to power in elections on May 11.

It’s the first transition of power since 1992, when the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) dominated the country’s post-socialist turn to democratic politics. PPP officials, including former president Donald Ramotar, still refuse to concede their narrow defeat, even as Granger was sworn in over the weekend as Guyana’s new president. Traditionally, the PPP has depended on votes from the ethnic Indian community in Guyana. While Granger’s coalition won the traditional support of the Afro-Guyanese community, the multi-ethnic patina of the coalition bolstered his claim to destroy race-based politics in the oft-forgotten country.  Continue reading PPP narrowly defeated by Guyana’s opposition coalition

Péladeau could be last shot for Québec independence movement

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It wasn’t a surprise that Pierre-Karl Péladeau won the leadership of the Parti québécois (PQ) last weekend.Quebec Flag IconpngCanada Flag Icon

Péladeau, the former CEO of Quebecor, the province’s leading media corporation, took the leadership easily on the first ballot with 57.6% of the vote. He easily defeated Alexandre Cloutier, a young moderate who nevertheless placed second with 29.21% of the vote, and Martine Ouellet, a more traditional PQ leftist. But Péladeau’s victory was sealed earlier this year when the momentum of his campaign forced heavyweights like Jean-François Lisée and Bernard Drainville out of the running.

Péladeau, accepting the party’s leadership with a vow to ‘make Québec a country,’ has a huge task ahead.

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RELATEDPéladeau continues march to PQ leadership

RELATED: Québec election results — four reasons why the PQ blew it

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After just 18 months in office, the province’s voters rejected the minority PQ-led government in April 2014, restoring to power the Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ) under the leadership of former health minister Philippe Couillard. It was a disastrous defeat for the PQ and for premier Pauline Marois, who lost her own riding in the provincial election. Péladeau, who thundered into the election campaign as a first-time candidate, quickly overshadowed Marois with talk of a fresh independence vote for the province, forcing Marois to spend weeks talking about hypothetical referenda, currency and border questions. Arguably, the PQ never subsequently regained a credible shot at winning the election.

Moreover, Péladeau has sometimes stumbled throughout the months-long campaign often designed as an exercise in rebuilding. He never fully repudiated the party’s disastrous (and many would say illiberal and racist) attempt to enact the charte de la laïcité (Charter of Rights and Values) that, among other things, would have banned government employees from wearing any religious symbols. In March,  Péladeau said that ‘immigration and demography’ were to blame for the independence movement’s waning support. As a media tycoon who has pledged only now upon his election as PQ leader, to place his Quebecor stock in a blind trust, leftists throughout Québec remain wary of his leadership. His battles to defeat unions as a businessman are as legendary as his temper.

The latest Léger Marketing poll from April 11 shows the PLQ with a stead lead of 37% to just 28% for the PQ. François Legault’s center-right, sovereigntist Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) would win 21%, and the pro-independence, leftist Québec  solidaire would win 10%.

All of which makes it baffling that Péladeau’s rise to the leadership has been so effortless. With the future of the struggling independence on the line, the party faithful never really forced Péladeau to fight for the leadership. It’s a lot of faith to place in such a political novice — and no one really knows whether he’ll turn out more like Lucien Bouchard or Michael Ignatieff.  Continue reading Péladeau could be last shot for Québec independence movement

What Umunna’s withdrawal from Labour race means

umunnaIt was literally just three days ago that rising star Chuka Umunna entered the race to become the Labour Party’s next leader.

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Citing concerns about the massive media intrusion into his life, Umunna abruptly withdrew from consideration earlier today:

However since the night of our defeat last week I have been subject to the added level of pressure that comes with being a leadership candidate. I have not found it to be a comfortable experience. One can imagine what running for leader can be like, understand its demands and the attention but nothing compares to actually doing it and the impact on the rest of one’s life.

It’s surprising that Umunna was so taken aback by the media’s role, especially after the punishing treatment to which Labour’s former leader, Ed Miliband, was subjected in over four years as British opposition leader.

No matter anyone says, Umunna will find it very difficult to make a leadership bid in the future after bottling the opportunity now — especially after oddsmakers made him the sudden frontrunner in the race to replace Miliband. Though Umunna started off his career as a Labour MP in 2010 with ties to the left wing of the party, he slowly moved to the center in his role as shadow business secretary, and he emerged as a favorite of New Labour figures, including former prime minister Tony Blair and former business secretary Peter Mandelson.

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RELATED: The race to succeed Ed Miliband begins tonight

RELATED: What ‘New Labour’  can and cannot teach Labour in 2015

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Though the chasm between centrist ‘modernizers’ and the more leftist wing of the party is narrower than the narrative of the past week of post-election post-mortems claim, Umunna was clearly capable of telescoping to Labour supporters and others that he would push, as leader, to bring the part back into the middle of British politics. As the son of a Nigerian father and a British-Irish mother, Umunna would have represented a growing class of British citizens with multi-racial backgrounds. He certainly has a compelling story and uniquely talented communications skills.

All of which means his withdrawal is bad news for Labour.

Even if you take Umunna at his word that the unexpected media glare forced him to step aside as putative frontrunner to lead Labour, it’s still incredibly odd. It’s natural to wonder whether there’s more to this story. A former DJ, Umunna received some negative publicity back in 2013 after he once posted on a website forum asking for recommendations for London nightclubs not ‘full of trash.’ It’s worth questioning if there are additional, more damning, revelations from Umunna’s past that could have made him less appealing. As a London native with a reputation as something of a slick operator, Umunna’s weakness was that he might have struggled to connect with working-class voters in the much poorer north. Similar revelations would have crippled Umunna’s ability to do so, potentially pushing traditional Labour voters to the eurosceptic, anti-immigrant United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which placed second in many constituencies in northern England in the May 7 general election.

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With decisions by veteran Dan Jarvis and former foreign secretary David Miliband not the pursue the leadership, two experienced candidates are now set to dominate the race — shadow health secretary Andy Burnham and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper. Both have ministerial experience, and both have increased their standing while in opposition, Burnham by challenging moves by the Conservative Party to privatize certain elements of the National Health Service and Cooper by championing women’s rights. Nevertheless, both have ties to former prime minister Gordon Brown that have left moderates somewhat uncomfortable. Cooper’s husband, who shockingly lost his constituency last week, is former shadow chancellor Ed Balls (pictured above, left, with Burnham, center, and Cooper, right), a longtime economic adviser to Brown.

Umunna, moreover, represented a swift turn to the future generation of Labour that would bypass figures like Burham and Cooper. There are others who would like to claim that mantle, though none shine quite as brightly as Umunna. Continue reading What Umunna’s withdrawal from Labour race means

What Republicans could learn from Cameron’s Conservatives

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Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders proudly claimed that American economic policy should look more like Scandinavia’s.United Kingdom Flag Icon

But for Republican presidential hopefuls, it might be more fruitful to turn their gaze slightly to the south of Scandinavia — to the United Kingdom, where Conservative prime minister David Cameron won an unexpectedly robust victory in last Thursday’s general election. Not only did Cameron stave off predictions of defeat by the center-left Labour Party, his Tories won an absolute (if small) majority in the House of Commons, increasing his caucus by 24 MPs. This, in turn, will allow Cameron to govern for the next five years without a coalition partner. That’s all well and good considering that the Liberal Democrats lost 48 of their 56 seats in Parliament.

It’s rare, in a parliamentary system, for a government to win reelection with even greater support, let alone after five years of budget cuts and economic contraction that transformed into GDP growth only in the last two years. Margaret Thatcher was the last prime minister to do so in 1983, and that followed her stupendous victory against Argentina in the Falklands War of 1982.

For U.S. conservatives, Cameron’s victory in winning the first Tory majority since 1992 should provide a road map for the kinds of policies that can pave the way to a GOP victory in 2016. Republicans know that they’ve won a popular vote majority just once since 1988, and demographic changes are making the Republican presidential coalition more elderly, white and rural in an increasingly young, multiracial and urban society.

Cameron benefitted from smart political strategy that painted Labour, fairly or unfairly, as untrustworthy stewards of the British economy. He also appealed to the fears of English voters in warning that a Labour government, propped up by votes from the pro-independence Scottish National Party, would amount to a “coalition of chaos” in Westminster. Cameron also benefitted from doubts among British voters about Labour’s leader, Ed Miliband, who pulled Labour to the left of Tony Blair’s third-way “New Labour”centrism and who never seemed to fit the role of potential prime minister.

Nevertheless, there are at least three areas where Republicans could replicate Cameron’s agenda and, potentially, turn the tables on Democrats in 2016. Continue reading What Republicans could learn from Cameron’s Conservatives

Photo of the day: Hollande meets the Castros

hollande-castroPhoto credit to Alex Castro / AFP.

Since US president Barack Obama announced on December 17 of last year that the United States will seek to normalize relations with Cuba (for the first time since 1961), there’s hardly been a day without some little nugget of news about the world opening a little more to Havana.cuba

In some cases, it’s been US-based companies, from Netflix to iTunes to AirBNB, announcing that they will take steps to do business in Cuba.

In other cases, it’s news that airlines will establish new routes between American cities and Havana — or, potentially, a ferry from south Florida.

But there’s also been a steady stream of world leaders making the trip to Cuba — the European Union’s high representative for foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, visited Havana in March, New York state governor Andrew Cuomo led a delegation in April. Pope Francis, who facilitated normalization talks between the United States and Cuba, is set to pay the island a visit in September, and US secretary of state John Kerry is tentatively planning a trip as well.

Today, however, on the same day that Cuban diplomats said that the country would exchange ambassadors with the United States by the end of the month, it was French president François Hollande’s turn. Hollande met with both president Raúl Castro and his brother, former president Fidel Castro. In remarks at the University of Havana, Hollande called on the United States to end its decades-long embargo of the island country, adding that the embargo has slowed the pace of Cuban development.

Despite the recent increase in official visits from international figures, Hollande is the first French president in more than a century to visit Cuba, and he’s the first Western leader to visit the Castro-led regime in Cuba since former Spanish prime minister Felipe González in 1986.

Hollande’s visit — and the endearing tone with which he embraced the Castro brothers — wasn’t universally popular with everyone.

Prominent writer Yoani Sánchez gently chided Hollande in a post at her Generation Y website (via the English version) for failing to meet with any dissidents or activists during his visit:

On this visit we needed reaffirmation that the France of the Rights of Man still believes in the unshakeable values that recognize the rights of individuals to disagree, to express their differences without fear and to organize around them. We demanded some words of support, words that would confirm for us that the government of the European country is willing to support, in Cuba, the desires for freedom that have so marked and modeled its own national history.

A man who has declared that French and Cubans have “shared the same movement of ideas, the same aspirations, the same philosophical inspiration, cannot believe that he has visited a country where citizens have chosen by their own free will to subordinate themselves to a totalitarian power. Does Hollande think that we have tacitly chosen the cage? Does he suppose, perhaps, that we are comfortable in our chains?

Komorowski trails in shock Polish presidential vote result

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It’s safe to say that Polish president Bronisław Komorowski’s surprise second-place finish in the first round of the presidential election on Sunday was one of the most unexpected events in Polish politics of the past decade.Poland_Flag_Icon

Even after exit polls showed Komorowski (pictured above) training the conservative Andrzej Duda, it was still difficult to believe the popular, capable, moderate incumbent could have failed in a race where polls previously gave him a wide lead.

Though the presidency is chiefly ceremonial, the president serves as commander-in-chief of the Polish army and represents Poland in international affairs, though the prime minister (nominally selected by the president) establishes foreign policy. Notably, the Polish president also has a veto right over legislation, though a three-fifths majority of the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, can override a presidential veto.

The presidential vote is widely seen as a prelude to the more important parliamentary elections expected to take place in October 2015.

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Complacency among Komorowski’s supporters, the gradual rise in support for Duda (pictured above) and the surprisingly robust protest vote for former rock musician Paweł Kukiz, who waged a populist campaign that called for more direct representation in national elections. Kukiz demands the elimination of party-list proportional representation and the introduction of single-member constituencies, with legislators individually responsible for their voters’ demands. Ironically, Kukiz’s call for a first-past-the-post system coincides with widespread dissatisfaction with the electoral process in Great Britain, where the FPTP system made for some rather inequitable results in last week’s election. Nevertheless, Kukiz won over one-fifth of all voters on Sunday, and both remaining candidates are keen on winning over his supporters.

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Both candidates will now advance to a May 24 runoff and, though Komorowski is still expected to win reelection, there’s a chance that Duda could use the momentum of his first-round victory in the next two weeks to propel himself into the presidency. Duda, a 42-year-old member of the European Parliament, is the candidate of the nationalist, conservative Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS, Law and Justice) that held power between 2005 and 2007. Unlike Komorowski, he opposes plans for Poland to join the eurozone.

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RELATED: Kopacz puts imprint on Poland’s new government

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Komorowski, nominally an independent but tied closely to the more pragmatic governing Platforma Obywatelska (PO, Civic Platform), receives generally high marks for his performance as president. Komorowski, a former defense minister, has struck a reassuring tone on the threat of growing Russian ambitions in Ukraine and eastern Europe, and his reelection campaign has sought to reassure voters that he will be a steady hand with respect to Poland’s security.  Continue reading Komorowski trails in shock Polish presidential vote result

What ‘New Labour’ can and cannot teach Labour in 2015

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I’m not running for the leadership of the Labour Party in 2015. But it seems like hugging Peter Mandelson — figuratively and nearly literally — on the eve of the leadership campaign is an odd step for Chuka Umunna (pictured above, left, with Mandelson), the shadow business secretary and the youngest of several members of the ‘next generation’ of Labour’s most impressive rising stars.United Kingdom Flag Icon

Though he hasn’t formally announced anything, Umunna is doing everything to signal that he will seek the Labour leadership, including an op-ed in The Guardian on Saturday that serves as a laundry list of Umunna’s priorities as Labour leader:

First, we spoke to our core voters but not to aspirational, middle-class ones. We talked about the bottom and top of society, about the minimum wage and zero-hour contracts, about mansions and non-doms. But we had too little to say to the majority of people in the middle… [and] we talked too little about those creating wealth and doing the right thing.

Ed Miliband’s resignation on Friday, in the wake of Labour’s most disappointing election result in a quarter-century, has opened the way not only for a robust leadership contest, but for a free-for-all of second-guessing about Miliband’s vision for Labour in the year leading up to last week’s election.

Liz Kendall, the 43-year-old shadow minister for care and older people, was the first to announce her candidacy for the leadership; shadow justice minister David Jarvis, a decorated veteran, said he would pass on the race. Others, including shadow health minister Andy Burnham, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, shadow education secretary Tristam Hunt are likely to join Kendall and Umunna in the race. Former foreign secretary David Miliband, whose brother narrowly defeated him for the Labour leadership in 2010, is set to make remarks Monday about his future in New York, where he serves as the president of the International Rescue Committee. Should he decide to return to London to vie for the Labour leadership, it could upend the race — many Britons believe Labour chose the wrong Miliband brother five years ago.

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RELATED: The race to succeed Ed Miliband begins tonight

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Unsurprisingly, the loudest critics have been the architects of the ‘New Labour’ movement that propelled former prime minister Tony Blair to power in 1997, including Blair himself. They’re right to note that Blair is still the only Labour leader to win a majority since 1974, and there’s a strong argument that they are also correct that Miliband could have made a more compelling case to the British middle class, especially outside of London.

Before he got bogged down with British support for the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, Blair was widely popular throughout the United Kingdom, positioning Labour squarely in the center of British politics and consigning the Conservative Party to hopeless minority status for the better part of a decade.

But even if Blair and Mandelson are right that turning back the clock to the 1970s or 1992 can’t provide Labour the way forward in 2015, it’s equally true that Umunna and the other Labour leadership contenders can’t simply argue that it’s enough to turn the clock back to 1997.

What’s more, in a world where senior Labour figures grumble that figures like Burnham and Cooper are too tied to the Ed Miliband era to lead Labour credibly into the 2020 election, there are also risks for Umunna or other leadership contenders to be too closely tied to the New Labour figures of the 1990s. The last thing Labour wants to do is return to the backbiting paralysis that came from the sniping between Blair and his chancellor and eventual prime minister Gordon Brown. If there’s one thing Miliband managed successfully since 2010, it was to unite the disparate wings of a horribly divided party. It will be no use for the next leader to attempt to move Labour forward if it reopens the nasty cosmetic fights of the past.  Continue reading What ‘New Labour’ can and cannot teach Labour in 2015

Two maps that explain the British election results

With Westminster still reeling from the extent of prime minister David Cameron’s victory in last Thursday’s general election, two maps are making the rounds on Twitter that show just how much has changed (or not) in British politics in 2015.United Kingdom Flag Icon

The first comes from Vaughan Roderick, a Welsh correspondent for the BBC, and it shows the legacy of Labour in what used to be the coal heartlands of Great Britain, underlining that Labour was unable to expand beyond its historical base there (and in London, which isn’t a former mining area):

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The second comes from Dods, and it shows the second-place winner in every constituency across Great Britain. It demonstrates just how strongly the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) performed across England, where it pushed Labour and the Liberal Democrats out of second place in the south and where it pushed the Tories out of second place in the north. If — and it’s a big if — UKIP can maintain its relevance through 2020, it certainly has a strong base upon which it can make progress, especially if it makes a splash in the 2017 referendum over European Union membership. The map also shows the path forward for the Liberal Democrats’ rebuilding process, which should begin in Cornwall and the southwest.

Secondplace

Seven things to watch for in Cameron’s next government

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It’s morning in the United Kingdom, and the BBC is projecting that the Conservative Party will win 325 seats — exactly half of the House of Commons, and an increase of 20 seats from the 305 seats that the Tories held in the prior parliament.United Kingdom Flag Icon

What’s clear is that prime minister David Cameron will keep his job, and all the talk of a hung parliament and weeks of coalition-building seems to have been wrong.

But what will Cameron face in the next five years?

Here are the seven things to watch, as the second Cameron government unfolds: Continue reading Seven things to watch for in Cameron’s next government

The race to succeed Ed Miliband begins tonight

sadedPhoto credit to Getty.

It’s been a massively disappointing night for the Labour Party.United Kingdom Flag Icon

English voters didn’t swing en masse to Ed Miliband. It certainly seems like southern voters stuck with the Conservatives and northern voters turned to the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Leftist voters turned to the Green Party, which seems set to triple its national support.

Scottish voters abandoned Labour outright, swinging massively to the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP).

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RELATED: Live blog — UK election results

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It’s the kind of wipeout that will demand Miliband’s resignation — even before he’s delivered an address and even before the British media has declared a winner. It may not happen tonight, it may not happen tomorrow, but it will happen soon.

Labour’s top officials will wake up on May 8 trying to figure out just how in the span of 18 months, the Tories whittled down a 10-point Labour lead in polls. Despite only tepid GDP growth and five years of budget cuts, voters failed to warm to Ed Miliband’s leadership. In the span of months, Labour saw ‘fortress Scotland’ obliterated by the SNP. In the span of days, Labour saw a plausible, if narrow, lead nationally evaporate.

Plenty of Labour officials will be saying that they chose the wrong Miliband brother — and that the one who could have won the 2015 general election was instead sitting in New York City running an NGO after Ed Miliband nipped past him in the 2010 leadership race on the strength of the votes of labour unions. Continue reading The race to succeed Ed Miliband begins tonight

LIVE BLOG: UK election results

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Throughout the night, Suffragio will be live-blogging the results of the United Kingdom’s general election to elect all 650 members of the House of Commons.United Kingdom Flag Icon

BBC Exit Poll
10:23 pm GMT, 5:23 pm ET

It hardly seems correct, but BBC’s exit polls have the Conservatives just short of a majority, winning nine additional seats from the current House of Commons. It’s a fabulous drop for Labour, a great night for the Scottish nationalists and a horrific bloodbath for the Liberal Democrats. Nonetheless, if the numbers are correct, it will put the Tories in pole position to form the next government. Ironically, though the Lib Dems are forecast, in this poll, to lose 46 of their 56 seats, they would, together with the Tories, be able to cobble a majority. This assumes that Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democratic leader and deputy prime minister, holds onto his seat in Sheffield Hallam, and will enter into a fresh coalition with the Conservatives.

Note that the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which currently holds eight seats, could give a new Tory/Lib Dem coalition an extra margin of comfort. Note that if Sinn Féin wins five seats (as in 2010), the Tories need only a 323-seat majority, not 326, because those MPs refuse to sit in Westminster.

Conservative Party — 325 (revised from 316)
Labour Party — 232 (revised from 239)
Scottish National Party — 56 (revised from 58)
Liberal Democrats — 12 (revised from 10)
United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) — 1 (revised from 2)
Green Party — 1 (revised from 2)

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Morley and Outwood
8:20 am GMT, 3:20 ET

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Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor who attacked the Tories relentlessly over austerity, has lost his election. A longtime aide to former prime minister Gordon Brown from 1990 until his election to parliament in 2005, Balls finished third in the 2010 Labour leadership election behind the two Miliband brothers. That he’s lost his Leeds constituency is Labour’s chief ‘Portillo moment’ — the defenestration of one of the party’s potential new leaders. Notwithstanding Balls’s defeat, his wife, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, remains a top contender to succeed Ed Miliband.

Conservative — 18,776 (17,264)
Labour — 18,354 (18,365)
UKIP — 7,951 (1,505)
LibDem — 1,426 (8,186)
Green — 1,264 (0)

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Brighton Pavillion
7:54 am GMT, 2:54 ET

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Caroline Lucas easily wins reelection, giving the Greens an important victory. The Green Party is now winning 3.7% of the vote nationally, but it will hold just this seat — Natalie Bennett, the party’s leader, who struggled at times during the campaign, finished third in the Holborn and St Pancras constituency. Nevertheless, it represents a huge leap forward for the Greens — a rise from the 0.9% it won in 2010.

Green — 22,871 (16,238)
Labour — 14,904 (14,986)
Conservative — 12,448 (12,275)
UKIP — 2,724 (948)
LibDem — 1,525 (7,159)

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6:45 am GMT, 1:45 ET

I’m ending the live blog now. All three major party leaders are expected to address the public widely tomorrow, and there are still plenty of outstanding seats.

We’re still waiting for final results in Rochester & Strood, where UKIP MP Mark Reckless, a Tory convert, was expected to lose.

We’re also still waiting for South Thanet’s results, where Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, has said he’ll resign as UKIP leader if he loses the constituency.

In Leeds, we’re still waiting for results from the Morley and Outwood constituency, where Labour’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls is in a tough fight — if he loses, Labour will lose a potential leadership candidate.

RELATED: The race to succeed Ed Miliband begins tonight

RELATED: Seven things to watch for in Cameron’s next government

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Solihull
6:11 am GMT, 1:11 ET

This was a classic seat — the Liberal Democrats had to win this seat to retain even 30  seats. Instead, it lost it by a wide margin.

Conservative — 26,956 (2,746)
LibDem — 14,054 (23,635)
Labour — 5,693 (4,891)
UKIP — 6,361 (1,200)
Green — 1,632 (0)

* * * * * Continue reading LIVE BLOG: UK election results

No matter who wins in the UK, deficit reduction will be the top goal

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Photo credit to AFP / Carl Court.

The one thing that both the Conservatives and Labour agree on in the 2015 election is that deficit reduction will be a priority for the United Kingdom’s next government.United Kingdom Flag Icon

To that end, when you put aside the sideshow of the proposed European Union referendum, the red lines and pledges about the National Health Service, and the vagaries of coalition politics with Scottish nationalists or Northern Irish unionists, the central question of the British general election is how to bring the budget deficit down from around 5% of GDP today to 3% or less by the end of the next government’s scheduled term in 2020.

No matter who wins today’s election, though, the next British government will prioritize deficit reduction. Though Labour leader Ed Miliband and prime minister David Cameron have very different visions for how to accomplish that, that they both agree on this goal is notable for two reasons. First, it puts Miliband and Cameron in agreement in a way that former prime minister Gordon Brown and Cameron never were in the 2010 election. Second, it means that Miliband has largely agreed to wage the 2015 campaign on Cameron’s own territory. Miliband conceded, long before the general election campaign even began, the central premise of Cameron’s 2010 campaign and subsequent government.  Continue reading No matter who wins in the UK, deficit reduction will be the top goal

Netanyahu finalizes fragile 61-MK coalition

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At nearly the last hour, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu finalized the smallest possible coalition possible.ISrel Flag Icon

After Netanyahu’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned on Monday and announced that his Russian-interest, secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu (ישראל ביתנו‎, ‘Israel is Our Home’) would head into opposition, it left the prime minister scrambling to build a government with a Wednesday night deadline looming.

Having secured agreements with Moshe Kahlon’s center-right Kulanu (כולנו‎, ‘All of Us’) and with two ultraorthodox parties, it left Netanyahu and his center-right Likud (הַלִּכּוּד‎) dependent on the final right-wing party, Bayit Yehudi (הבית היהודי, ‘The Jewish Home’) to form a working coalition. Kahlon, a former Likud communications minister, will serve as the government’s finance minister, is particularly concerned with policies to reduce inequality and rising domestic prices.

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RELATED: Lieberman resignation rocks Israeli coalition talks

RELATED: Israeli election results —
eight things we know after Tuesday’s vote

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With just eight seats (four fewer than in the previous Knesset) and hard feelings between Netanyahu and the Bayit Yehudi leader, Naftali Bennett, Lieberman’s decision suddenly gave Bennett much more negotiating power. Without Bennett, Netanyahu would not have a majority; Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin could thereupon turn to the leader of the opposition, Isaac Herzog, to seek an alternative government coalition.

The result was a poisonous 48 hours of negotiation between the Netanyahu and Bennett camps, with Bennett angling to win the all-important justice ministry for Ayelet Shaked and, perhaps, improving his own ministerial portfolio from education to the foreign ministry. With Likud’s ranks already grumbling about handing over the education ministry to Bennett, Netanyahu’s allies were downright furious — and embarrassed — to cave to Bennett on the justice ministry. It’s an important post because it will allow Bayit Yehudi to demand changes to the Israeli supreme court and it will give Bayit Yehudi the power to shape the appointment of Israel’s next attorney general.

Bennett, who served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff briefly in the 2000s, headed a pro-settler organization in the West Bank before assuming Bayit Yehudi’s leadership in 2013. The religious, right-wing Zionist party is in favor of greater settlements, and Netanyahu’s lurch rightward during the election campaign was designed to steal its voters to Likud’s ranks — a gambit that seemed to work.

In Netanyahu’s previous government, Bennett served as economy minister, though he enhanced his profile during the Israeli offensive in the Gaza strip in the summer of 2014, criticizing Netanyahu for not taking even stronger action to thwart Hamas.

The deal salvages Netanyahu’s third term as prime minister, but it comes at a huge cost. With just 61 MKs, Netanyahu can be held hostage in the future over any piece of legislation or government action by a single member of his own coalition. Just a couple of rebels could conceivably bring the government down, which could force a new government or fresh elections. After such contentious negotiations, moreover, trust between Netanyahu and Bennett, never strong, is at a nadir. Likud officials are already telling the Israeli media that they’ll seek ‘revenge’ for Bennett’s ‘extortions.’

To make matters worse, Bayit Yehudi is not entirely united behind Bennett’s leadership, and members of the even-harder-right ‘Tekuma’ faction were demanding that their leader, Uri Ariel, be given the justice portfolio instead of Shaked. For now, however, Ariel seems to be happy with the agricultural ministry.

Netanyahu still has another week to win a formal vote of confidence from the 120-member Knesset. But Netanyahu’s first task will start immediately — to build out his existing coalition on an ASAP basis so as to reduce the possibility of political blackmail or even to push Bayit Yehudi out of government altogether.

The most tantalizing option would be for Netanyahu to convince Herzog to form a ‘national unity’ government with the Zionist Union (המחנה הציוני‎), a coalition between the center-left Labor Party (מפלגת העבודה הישראלית) and a bloc of moderates led by former justice minister Tzipi Livni.

For now, Herzog has been adamant that he will not join any government headed by Netanyahu, and he was quick to criticize the instability of Netanyahu’s latest coalition:

Herzog criticized Netanyahu’s newly formed government shortly after it was announced Wednesday night, saying in a statement that the 61-seat coalition “lacks responsibility, stability and governance.” He called it a “national disaster of a government. A weak and narrow government, susceptible to blackmail, that will advance nothing and will quickly be replaced by a responsible and hopeful alternative.”

Netanyahu purposefully held open the foreign ministry position with an eye to convincing Herzog to join a national unity government.

But if Herzog cannot be convinced to do so within the months ahead, Netanyahu might try to split off a handful of Labor hawks or the faction loyal to Livni, who most recently served as Netanyahu’s justice minister between 2013 and 2015.

Netanyahu’s former finance minister, Yair Lapid, is adamant that he will not return to an alliance with Likud, especially after Netanyahu agreed to the ultraorthodox parties’ request to revisit the crackdown on exemptions from military service for religious students. But that doesn’t mean Netanyahu can’t try to poach several members of Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid (יש עתיד, ‘There is a Future’).

His final option, and perhaps the easiest of all, is to find a way to soothe his onetime ally Lieberman’s concerns and bring Yisrael Beitenu back into government.

MAKING WORLD POLITICS LESS FOREIGN