Albertan provincial election results

Despite polls that showed Alberta’s upstart Wildrose party would win last Tuesday’s election, and with all signs that the national Conservative Party was moving — if informally — to support Wildrose and its leader Danielle Smith, Alberta premier Alison Redford led Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives to yet another victory, prolonging its 41-year reign in Alberta.

The PCs won 61 seats, returning with a staggering majority in Alberta’s provincial assembly just five seats short from the last election, with Wildrose taking just 17 seats. Any pollster prior to Tuesday’s election would have predicted the opposite result — a Wildrose landslide, in fact.

The final result saw the PCs win a 43.95% plurality of the vote (a negative swing of 8.7%) to 34.29% for Wildrose — a 27.51% swing towards the newly enshrined conservative party which, if expectations of victory had not been so high, would have been seen as a massive victory. 

The Liberal Party won just 9.89% and won 5 seats (a net negative swing of 17%) and the New Democratic Party won 9.82% and just four seats.

So what happened!? Continue reading Albertan provincial election results

French first-round presidential election results


The first round of France’s presidential election is now over, and the two leaders, incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Parti socialiste candidate François Hollande are both running hard for the runoff election on May 6 — just nine days away.

The big story out of Sunday’s vote — the strong third-place finish of Front national candidate Marine Le Pen — has  shaped coverage of the race, even as Le Pen has fallen out of the race: both Sarkozy and Hollande are pursuing Front national voters.

Hollande won the first round with 28.63% of the vote to just 27.18% for Sarkozy.  Le Pen won a higher-than-expected 17.90% and Front de gauche candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon won a lower-than-expected 11.10%.  Centrist Mouvement démocrate candidate François Bayrou finished in 5th place with 9.13%.

So where is this race headed for the second round?

In the history of the Fifth Republic, no incumbent president has lost the first round of a presidential race (although there have been three occasions when the first-round winner ultimately lost in the second round — the last time was 1995, when Jacques Chirac defeated first-round winner Lionel Jospin).

Whereas Mélenchon has already given his full support to Hollande, Le Pen has not given her support to Sarkozy — and FN voters are split among Sarkozy, Hollande and abstaining altogether.

Sarkozy and Hollande will face off in a May 2 debate.

France presidential first-round campaign comes to an end

French voters go to the polls on Sunday for the first round of the presidential election.

While the French media has been fixated on rules that would prohibit the early publishing of exit poll data on Sunday, and each candidate has been making a final push for votes, there’s not so much to analyze in advance of the vote:

We already know the top two candidates to emerge will most certainly be incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Parti socialiste candidate François Hollande.

Despite polls that showed Sarkozy tied with or even pulling ahead of Hollande, the trend has now moved back to a slight Hollande lead.  Either way, it seems a safe bet that each will win just under one-third of the votes.  Ultimately, every poll has shown Hollande with a significant second-round lead, so the winner of the first round will take away bragging rights and perhaps a little momentum, but if Sarkozy edges Hollande out in the first round by a small amount, don’t expect that alone to significantly scramble the dynamic.

Indeed, the first-round winner is by no means a lock to win the second round — Lionel Jospin, for example, won the first round of the 1995 election but Jacques Chirac emerged in the second round with a majority; similarly, François Mitterand lost the first round of the 1981 election (to Chirac) before winning the second round, and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing won the second round in 1974 after losing the first round.

The battle for third place looks a bit more interesting — although none of Front national candidate Marine Le Pen, Front de gauche candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon or centrist François Bayrou will place out of the first round on Sunday, a strong showing for any of them could increase their political leverage with Sarkozy and/or Hollande in the event of a second-round endorsement (Le Pen is unlikely to support Sarkozy, although her supporters will likely support him overwhelmingly; Mélenchon has already said he will support Hollande in the second round; it is unclear who Bayrou might endorse).  Each will also be looking to June parliamentary elections as well — a strong showing in April is not dispositive of a similarly strong showing in parliamentary elections, but it’s a good indicator.  Mélenchon, too, may well be able to exchange a full-throated and enthusiastic endorsement of Hollande for soft support in the legislative election and/or potential ministry posts for his fellow communist/leftist coalition partners.

Chirac endorses Hollande?

 Reports that Jacques Chirac will support Francois Hollande in the April 22 presidential election are not compeletly surprising, given the acrimony between the former president and his successor, Nicolas Sarkozy:

Visiting the Correze administrative region where Hollande is president of the general council in June last year, Chirac himself – perhaps jokingly – that he would support the Socialist candidate.

“But he wasn’t joking,” Chirac biographer Jean-Luc Barré told BFM-TV on Tuesday referring to the former president’s comments. “I saw him ten days ago and he told me he was going to vote for Francois Hollande.”

Barré told Le Parisien that Chirac admired Hollande’s “radical socialism” and was attracted to the “social Gaulism” that he felt was strong in Hollande’s political agenda.

Chirac was always a man of survival than a man of ideology, but the concept that he would admire a Parti socialiste presidential candidate strikes for his “radical socialism” strikes me as a little suspect, given that word of his support comes third-hand.  It will be interesting to see if any other sources close to Chirac confirm the support in the next week.

But Chirac has long been less than enthusiastic about Sarkozy, who served as Chirac’s interior minister from 2005 to 2007, but who earned Chirac’s enmity — he had once been a rising star under Chirac’s patronage — when he endorsed Édouard Balladur in 1995 over Chirac in the presidential election.

Chirac, who remains a popular ex-president of France and who served as prime minister in the 1970s and 1980s before ascending to the presidency in 1995, was just last December convicted of corruption while he served as mayor of Paris in the 1980s. The conviction, which did not see Chirac serve any jail time, have not significantly harmed the ex-president’s popularity.

A note on the next two weeks

I will be travelling in China for the next two weeks, so posting may be lagging the news cycle, or otherwise sporadic for my, uh, dozens of loyal readers.

Not to worry, though! I will be pushing forward with coverage of all those races that are coming up: France‘s presidential election on April 22, Alberta‘s provincial elections on April 23, London‘s mayoral election on May 3, Greece‘s parliamentary elections on May 6 — and beyond.

Wildrose may be leading among federal Tories

With the Albertan provincial election just a week away, this latest nugget cannot be good news for the Progressive Conservative party:

A majority of Alberta’s 28 federal MPs are quietly “leaning” in the direction of the Wildrose party, which is seeking next week to end the Progressive Conservative dynasty in the province, says Calgary MP Rob Anders.

“I think I can safely say that the majority of members of Parliament inside the Alberta caucus, that I’m aware of, are leaning Wildrose,” said the MP for Calgary West, according to Monday’s edition of the Hill Times, an Ottawa-based weekly political and public policy newspaper.

“There are still a few stragglers who are supporting the Progressive Conservatives, but they’re more reluctant to make a public admission of that because they see the numbers and where things are heading.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has told his MPs in Alberta, B.C. and Quebec to feel free to publicly endorse whichever candidates they choose, since all three provinces have parties on the centre-right competing for voters who back Harper federally, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said last month.

The news breaks as the PC leader and current premier Alison Redford had to deny reports of a rift with former premier Ralph Klein, whose nearly two decades at the helm of the PC lock on Alberta’s government looms over the campaign, which could see the PCs forced out of office for the first time in 41 years. Continue reading Wildrose may be leading among federal Tories

North Rhine-Westphalia: barometer of federal German politics?

Since a mid-March budget standoff when the current government failed to pass its budget by one vote, North Rhine-Westphalia has been (rather unexpectedly) poised to hold early elections on May 13.

This is no small matter, as NRW is the largest state in Germany — with almost 18 million people, it comprises nearly one-fourth of Germany’s population, exceeding the populations of both Bavaria of the former East Germany.  During the post-war period, it was the heart of the Land von Kohle und Stahl (the ‘land of steel and coal’) — today it remains an industrial powerhouse within Germany, even if it has otherwise diversified economically as well.

NRW lacks both the socially conservative political tilt of Bavaria and the heavily socialist/leftist political of the eastern German states, so given its status as the largest German state, it is something of a traditional bellwether for federal elections, which are due in 2013. 

For instance:

  • The 1966 victory of Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (the Social Democratic Party) leader Heinz Kühn and subsequent SPD-led governing coalition with the economically liberal Freie Demokratische Partei (Free Democrats) foreshadowed a similar coalition at the federal level under Willy Brandt.
  • The 1995 SPD-led coalition with Die Grünen (the Green Party) headed by Johannes Rau similarly foreshadowed the coalition between Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of the SPD and foreign minister Joschka Fischer of the Greens.
  • In May 2005, the Christlich Demokratische Union (Christian Democratic Union) swept into power in North Rhine-Westphalia, giving momentum to the sense that Angela Merkel would sweep Schröder and the SDP out of power federally.

In the most recent 2010 election, the CDU and the SPD essentially tied with about 34.5% of the vote each and 67 seats each in the state parliament, the Landtag. The Greens finished third, with 12%, more than doubling their number of seats to 23, while the FDP held steady with just 13 seats. Die Linke (the Left Party) took 11 seats, entering the Landtag for the first time. 

Accordingly, the SPD-Green coalition precariously held just 90 of the 181 seats in the current Landtag, leading to the one-vote loss in March’s budget vote and early elections.

This time around, though, the SPD-Green coalition headed by Hannelore Kraft seems increasingly poised for a clear victory — the SPD leads with around 40% to the CDU’s 32% (with a healthy 12% for the SPD’s coalition partner, the Greens), and Kraft remains much more widely popular than the CDU’s Norbert Röttgen. 

At the same time, the CDU holds a small, but steady, lead over the SPD in national polls. 

Normally, Merkel might have been seen to be a ‘lame duck’ chancellor following a CDU defeat on May 13, but the NRW result seems increasingly irrelevant to federal political developments — so the expected SPD victory will cause little turbulence for Merkel as she continues to focus on Europe prior to federal elections next year.

While the NRW election may be irrelevant for the CDU, the SPD and even the Greens, however, it will be a vital test for both of the Free Democrats and the Pirates in advance of the next federal election. Continue reading North Rhine-Westphalia: barometer of federal German politics?

Disqualifications reshape Egyptian presidential race

This weekend’s decision by Egypt’s Presidential Elections Commission to disqualify ten candidates (out of 23) in the upcoming Egyptian presidential election on May 23 — including the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, a former top official of Hosni Mubarak’s regime and another popular Salafist candidate — appears to have closed a topsy-turvy chapter in the race.

The latest drama started when Salafist preacher Hazem Abu Ismail (above, top) began gaining traction in the race.  A hardline Islamist, Abu Ismail’s campaign targeted a smaller role for the Egyptian military in public life and a correspondingly greater role for Islam.  A proponent of Iranian-style reforms, he would make the veil mandatory for women.  He also advocated a ban on alcohol consumption, including for foreign tourists, and the closing of gambling casinos, currently open to foreigners.

While this hardline agenda is fairly popular with not just a few Egyptians, it essentially terrified everyone else in Egypt — from the secular military to Egypt’s vocal minority of Coptic Christians to the tourism industry, which would rather not scare away any more Western visitors.  Meanwhile, the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood, which had previously pledged not to field a candidate for the presidential election, also saw Abu Ismail as a threat.  In sitting out the presidential election, it ceded to Abu Ismail the full spectrum of Islamists, conservative and moderate.  But, more existentially, as Abu Ismail’s tone and support began to sound alarm among those who want to perpetuate Egyptian’s secular state, it risked being lumped together with the Salafists. Continue reading Disqualifications reshape Egyptian presidential race

A guide to potential Greek coalitions (or, how we might end up with a second election)

Although Greek elections have only this week been set for May 6, speculation is already rising that the vote will result in no viable coalition.

The two traditional parties of Greek politics since 1974 have been the center-right’s New Democracy (Νέα Δημοκρατία) and the center-left’s Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Πανελλήνιο Σοσιαλιστικό Κίνημα), or PASOK.  But polls leading up to the legislative elections, however, show that the Greek two-party system appears to have all but broken down in the face of voter disgust with both New Democracy and PASOK, which both supported the ‘troika’ bailout from the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, along with the accompanying reforms and budget cuts, none of which has been popular among Greek voters, to put it mildly.

Polls also suggest that no single party commands much over 20% in support and accordingly, up to nine discrete political parties could enter the Hellenic Parliament after May 6.  That includes New Democracy and PASOK, but also KKE (the Greek Communist Party), SYRIZA (the Coalition of the Radical Left), the Democratic Left, the Ecologist Greens, the Independent Greeks (a center-right anti-austerity group), Golden Dawn (a neo-fascist, neo-nazi party) and LAOS (a right-wing Orthodox party) — the Greek electoral process provides that any party with over 3% of the national vote will be represented with seats.

But what are the potential combinations of coalitions?  And more to the point, what is the likelihood that any such coalition can come to agreement to form a government? Continue reading A guide to potential Greek coalitions (or, how we might end up with a second election)

Malian coup works out well for candidate and now interim president Traoré

When Dioncounda Traoré decided to run in Mali’s April 29 presidential election, he had no idea he would be sworn in as president — on April 12, nonetheless.

But the president of the national assembly and president of the Alliance for Democracy and Progress found himself in precisely that position as he was sworn in as interim president Thursday, following a coup on March 21 that saw the removal of Amadou Toumani Touré, who had served as president of the west African country since 2000 and was set to step down in advance of the planned presidential election.

In the wake of general international condemnation and further unrest in the north of Mali — northern Tuareg rebels, encouraged by the opportunity of the coup, declared their own nation of Azawad last week — coup leaders stepped down in favor of Traoré, who has been tasked with organizing new elections within 40 days.

Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, who organized the coup from within the military as a result of frustration with the relatively soft-touch approach of Touré’s government to the northern uprising, will likely go down in Malian history as one of its most incompetent actors, having served as a catalyst for accelerating the very movement he hoped his coup would squash.  The coup simultaneously transformed the image of his nation from a poster child of democratic stability into an international pariah.  Pretty staggering for less than a month.  It will be up to Traoré to begin the process of cleaning up that mess. Continue reading Malian coup works out well for candidate and now interim president Traoré

Not everyone pleased with Senegalese cabinet

Amid the plaudits for running a free and (not wholly, but mostly) fair election, Senegal has now turned to the inauguration of its new president, Macky Sall, and the naming of his new cabinet.

While most of the selections have been met with general approval — including the naming of popular singer Youssou N’Dour as minister of culture and tourism.

But in declaring that he would reduce the number of cabinet members from 40 to 25, Sall was bound to anger some of the members of the multi-party coalition that bound together to support him in the second round of the presidential election, and it seems like that’s already happening:

President Sall’s party took the lion’s share and also locked up the key portfolios of foreign affairs, internal affairs, defence and finance. In addition, the party took up ministries other strategic ministries like justice, youth and communications.

Almost immediately, all of the other parties have been unleashing their pent up anger over the distribution of the ministerial posts.

Former premier Moustapha Niasse’s Alliance de Forces du Progrès (AFP), managed to obtain the second highest number ministerial slots – four.

So much for a honeymoon.

One of the key challenges of Sall’s young administration will be to meet the expectations of a coalition whose sole aim was to oust then-incumbent Abdoulaye Wade, and who expect Sall to address more effectively the burden of high fuel and gas prices and corruption.  Sall, whose entire political career was spent as Wade’s protegé until 2008, however, remains much more tied to the existing Senegalese political elite than many of the outsiders who supported his campaign.

The Greek far right gets the NYTimes treatment

In advance of the May 6 legislative elections in Greece, The New York Times takes a look at Golden Dawn (Χρυσή Αυγή), the neo-fascist — even neo-Nazi (just take a look at the party’s flags and think about which infamous 20th century group they appear to emulate) — party that is polling up to 5% in polls, which would entitle it to representation for the first time in the Hellenic Parliament.

Make no mistake, this gang makes Marine Le Pen look warm and cuddly and downright pro-immigration.

The piece notes that the entire terrain of Greek politics has moved far to the right on immigration issues, in no small part because of the traction of Golden Dawn:

Experts say the group is thriving where the Greek state seems absent, the most virulent sign of how the economic collapse has empowered fringe groups while eroding the political mainstream, a situation that some Greek news outlets have begun comparing to Weimar Germany. Continue reading The Greek far right gets the NYTimes treatment

Park Geun-hye: ready for the Blue House?

With South Korean elections for the National Assembly now complete, and with the Saenuri Party (새누리당) holding on to its majority in the National Assembly, it is in many ways now the first day of South Korea’s presidential campaign.

No one emerges from the election with more of a boost than the Saenuri Party’s leader, who shepherded the Saenuri Party from the control of its unpopular and scandal-ridden old guard and rechristened it from the Grand National Party: Park Geun-hye, who also happens to be the daughter of former South Korean leader Park Chung-hee.

It seems clear that Park is ready to launch a campaign — she visited a national cemetery in Seoul Thursday morning and wrote in the visitors book at the front gate that she would create a new Republic of Korea.

Indeed, the Korea Times has a piece today setting the stage for Park’s emergence as presidential frontrunner:

Before the elections, few campaign watchers expected the Saenuri Party would receive such wide support from the general public after a series of scandals and corruption cases involving President Lee Myung-bak’s aides and relatives tarnished its image.

Park was called upon to assume the interim leadership last December when party support hit rock bottom.

The Korea Herald also hails her triumph, noting that Saeunri is rallying around Park in the aftermath of their win. Continue reading Park Geun-hye: ready for the Blue House?

Marine Le Pen and the youth vote

With 10 days to go until the French election, and with presumably more pressing topics to discuss, the campaign’s narrative has turned once again to Front national candidate Marine Le Pen — and her surprisingly strong support among the youngest voters.

According to a poll published in Le Monde earlier this week, Le Pen wins 26% of the 18-to-24 vote, to just 25% for Parti socialiste candidate François Hollande, 17% for incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and 16% for Front de gauche candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.  An IFOP poll earlier this week showed her polling second among the 18-to-22 vote.

This should not be a surprise – with unemployment running high in France amid near-recession levels of GDP stagnation and in the middle of a Europe-wide sovereign debt crisis (and currency crisis), it is perhaps understandable that job anxiety among the young, for whom unemployment runs highest, is fueling her support. 

Her anti-immigration rhetoric has been sanitized to the point where her argument is essentially economic and employment protectionism, less the nastier xenophobia of her father’s Front national.  She has no particular problem with LGBT rights and she has not emphasized religion in the same way as her father.  As an outsider, she is not tied to the difficulties and compromises that come with being a player in the European arena, which also undoubtedly plays a role in her success.

These polls somewhat remind me of the exit polls in the United States that showed U.S. representative and avowed libertarian Ron Paul leading among 18-to-29 voters in the Republican primaries of 2012 — as in the United States, it is hard to know whether to strike the anomaly to youthful rebellion or some deeper ideological turn among the right’s youngest generation.

But by all means: give Marine credit for her success.

She’s managed to take what was once a shamefully anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and otherwise parochial party, headed by a grumpy old toad, and bring it within the mainstream of French politics.  Marine has clearly mastered the art of 21st century political imagery in ways her father could have never fathomed.  Indeed, at this point, the Front national probably has a stronger brand in France than Sarkozy’s own party — can you even name it?*  Even in a country like France where party identification is relatively weak, the party of center-right has been rechristened about once every decade in the Fifth Republic.  Continue reading Marine Le Pen and the youth vote

South Korean national assembly elections — final results

In concert with earlier reports from Seoul, the Saenuri Party has won yesterday’s elections to fill the seats of the National Assembly.

According to the Republic of Korea’s National Election Commission, Saenuri will take 152 seats to just 127 seats for the Democratic United Party and 13 seats for the DUP’s ally, the Unified Progressive Party.  The conservative Liberal Forward Party has won five seats.

UPDATE (April 13): See after the jump an election map showing the regional results in the legislative elections.  As is the key to much of Korean politics — six of the country’s eight presidents have come from North Gyeongsang province in the southeast of the country; the two most recent, Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak, hail from South Gyeongsang province.  During Park Chung-hee’s regime from 1961 to 1979, Gyeongsang — which was historically the strongest of South Korea’s historical kingdoms — reaped beneficial treatment from the national government, which only furthered social stigma against Koreans from Jeolla province, which today remains a DUP strongold.  The DUP also performed well in Seoul, another traditional DUP stronghold.

Continue reading South Korean national assembly elections — final results