Tag Archives: primary

Dutch voters defeated Wilders, not the Dutch electoral system

Prime minister Mark Rutte debated populist Geert Wilders in a one-on-one debate Monday night. (Bart Maat / ANP)

One of the growing myths of yesterday’s poor showing for Geert Wilders and the is that, somehow, the Dutch electoral system is somehow responsible for Wilders’s poor showing. 

Consider this paragraph from The Economist that cautions not to extrapolate too much from Wilders’s humbling collapse to just 13% support (good enough, in the current fragmented political context, for second place):

Mr Trump’s win could not have happened without the peculiarities of America’s electoral college. By the same token, the fact that Mr Wilders did not win does not translate on to Ms Le Pen. The Dutch political system is open and diffuse, with over a dozen parties in parliament and low barriers for new ones to make it in. The French system is more rigid.

I’ve seen this theme increasingly on Twitter today (especially on #MAGA Twitter) — somehow as if it’s okay to disregard the Dutch election result because seats in the Tweede Kamer are awarded on the basis of proportional representation or because of the Dutch parliamentary system, as if another system would have delivered a resounding victory for Wilders and the Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV, Party for Freedom).


Imagine that Dutch elections were instead organized like American elections. You would see a primary on the right (much like we’ve seen recently in Italy, even though it’s more of a parliamentary system). In this hypothetical primary, Wilders would have campaigned against not only prime minister Mark Rutte, but against Christian Democratic leader Sybrand Buma and Christian Union leader Gert-Jan Segers and even Thierry Baudet, the head of a little-known group, the Forum voor Democratie (FvD, Forum for Democracy), a small right-wing populist and eurosceptic group that managed to win 1.8% of the national vote yesterday. If you extrapolate the results — that’s a little tricky because the Dutch voted for parties, not for personalities — it’s clear that right-leaning voters far preferred Rutte to Wilders.

That would have been true in 2012, by the way, and it would have been true in 2010 (the high-water mark for Wilders and the PVV). An American-style ‘primary’ in 2006? Former Christian Democratic prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende would have easily defeated both Rutte and Wilders. In a presidential-style ‘general election,’ Rutte would have faced off, perhaps, against Alexander Pechtold, the leader of the left-liberal Democraten 66 (D66, Democrats 66), with Wilders standing on the sidelines stewing over Islam or running a doomed third-party challenge. (Though of course sore-loser laws in the United States would have effectively prevented Wilders from running both for the Republican nomination and a third-party candidacy).

Imagine, too, a world where Dutch elections used the French system. Rutte and Wilders, as the leaders of the two parties with the largest number of votes in the 2017 election (again, it’s tricky to conflate votes for parties and votes for individuals) would presumably face one another in a runoff.

But it’s hard to see where Wilders would have picked up votes, much beyond the populist 50PLUS party or the FvD. That’s clear enough from the 65% (or so) of the Dutch electorate that supported moderate parties of both the left and the right that are generally pro-Europe and tolerant (if not always enthusiastic) of immigrants. Rutte, I’d be willing to wager, would win a French-style runoff by the same margin that centrist Emmanuel Macron currently enjoys against populist Marine Le Pen in polls forecasting the May presidential runoff in France.

Finally, consider the United Kingdom, where each member of parliament is elected in a single-member constituency by first-past-the-post voting.

There’s a reason that third parties fare so poorly in FPTP systems — they are unfairly disadvantaged.

See the map above from the 388 municipalities of The Netherlands. That sea of dark blue? It’s the wave of municipalities where Rutte’s governing Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) would have won on a FPTP basis. In a world where the Tweede Kamer was a 388-member parliament, the VVD would easily dominate it, followed (not particularly closely) in second place by the Christen-Democratisch Appèl (CDA, Christian Democratic Appeal), represented above in dark green.

By my count, the PVV won first place across just 23 municipalities. That compares with 13 municipalities where the Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij (SGP, Reformed Political Party) won the highest number of votes (see in orange above) — a party that wants to run the country on ‘biblical principles’ and Calvinist orthodoxy!

The system — in this case at least — had no bearing.

Wilders has no one to blame but himself and his party’s vague and divisive message. It simply didn’t break through to many Dutch voters, and that lack of enthusiasm would have manifested itself in any number of electoral systems.

How I expect the 2016 Republican nomination race to play out

Donald Trump has dominated the imagination of the Republican contest in 2015, but can he turn enthusiasm into real votes in 2016? Maybe.
Donald Trump has dominated the imagination of the Republican contest in 2015, but can he turn enthusiasm into real votes in 2016? Maybe. (Facebook)

It’s not often that I write about American politics because there are already so many pundits doing it, and the comparative advantage of a website like Suffragio lies in deeper analysis of global electoral politics and foreign policy informed by that analysis. USflag

But we’re now just over three weeks away from the most competitive Republican presidential nomination contest in memory, and we’re six months into the era of TrumpismoFor what it’s worth, no one knows exactly how the spring nominating process will end because there are so many variables — and you shouldn’t trust anyone who says otherwise.

Still, we’re not on Mars and, while there are certainly new factors in 2016 that matter more than ever, there is deep precedential value from prior contests.

So here’s one perspective on how the race might ultimately turn out, based on observing primary contests for over 20 years. At the most basic level, the race for the Republican nomination is a race to win a majority of the 2,470 delegates that will meet between July 18 and 21 in Cleveland, Ohio.  Continue reading How I expect the 2016 Republican nomination race to play out

What to expect from Sunday’s Argentine presidential primaries


On August 9, Argentine voters will take part in a compulsory open primary — the dress rehearsal for the general election set for late October.argentina

It’s the first presidential election since 1999 where a Kirchner won’t actually be on the ballot. Nevertheless, kirchnerismo is very much on the ballot, and its standard bearer, Daniel Scioli, the candidate of the ruling Frente para la Victoria (FpV, the Front for Victory), served as the late president Néstor Kirchner’s vice president between 2003 and 2007.

The country’s pre-game primary, however, is a relatively new feature to Argentine democracy. The outgoing incumbent, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, introduced open primaries in time for the 2011 elections — mandatory for both parties and voters alike. Candidates must win at least 1.5% support in the primary to advance to the general election. In a country where polling is still more art than science, and where political parties and coalitions are still more personality-oriented than long-term ideological vehicles, the primary is the most reliable test of electoral support before the October 25 election.

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RELATED: Everything you need to know
about Argentina’s impending default

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If polls remain as tight as they are today, and no candidate wins (i) either 45% of the vote outright or (ii) at least 40% of the vote (and leads the nearest candidate by more than 10%), the country will choose between the top two finishers in a November 22 runoff.

So this Sunday’s primary could be the first of three showdowns for the Casa Rosada. Continue reading What to expect from Sunday’s Argentine presidential primaries

Five reasons Berlusconi returned to run in the upcoming Italian election

After leading a symbolic ‘walk-out’ among his center-right Popolo della Libertà (PdL, People of Freedom) from the Italian senate on Thursday in opposition to the austerity measures and other reforms of caretaker prime minister Mario Monti, Il Cavaliere himself, Silvio Berlusconi (pictured above), today announced that he will lead the PdL as its candidate for prime minister in the upcoming Italian general election against a broad center-left alliance anchored by the Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party).

So much for a ‘third republic’ in Italian politics — with the selection of the Italian left’s old-guard’s candidate, Pier Luigi Bersani, in the center-left’s broad primary earlier this month against Florence mayor Matteo Renzi (the latter remains Italy’s most popular politician), Italy remains, for now, stuck in the same-old politics as before.

Indeed, a Berlusconi-Bersani face-off would not have raised eyebrows a decade ago.

This time around, though, Berlusconi will face none of the political luck or goodwill that’s marked most of his career — he left office in November 2011 with Italian 10-year bond rates at an unsustainable 7% amid a growing financial crisis that threatened not only Italy, but the entire eurozone.  In addition, Berlusconi has little to show for his stint in office in the way of policy accomplishments, was convicted (subject to appeal) for tax evasion earlier this autumn, and he’s been shamed by accusations of sex with underage women at the now-famous and much derided ‘bunga bunga’ parties and using his influence for the benefit of at least one of those women, a Moroccan immigrant.

So his return to office in many ways would be met with not just disdain, but outright hostility, from outside investors and much of the European political establishment, including the leaders of the European Union, French president François Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Berlusconi’s return has been met with chilly responses across the Italian political spectrum.  Monti, who is not contesting the election but has indicated he would be available to lead a second government in the event of a hung parliament, cautioned against populism and warned that Italy must avoid returning to a position whereby Italy’s finances threatened trigger the eurozone’s wider implosion.  Beppe Grillo, a blogger and social critic, as well as the leader of the populist and anti-austerity Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S, the Five Star Movement), savaged what he called Berlusconi’s ‘exhumation.’

Berlusconi’s one-time ally, Gianfranco Fini, who served as deputy prime minister, foreign minister and a former president of Italy’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies (Camera die Deputati), and who is running under the newly-formed Futuro e Libertà per l’Italia (FLI, Future and Freedom), also sounded alarm, noting that the PdL decision exposes Italy to additional risks.

Given the long odds — the PdL stands far behind the center-left coalition in every poll conducted for next year’s election (and sometimes behind the Five Star Movement, too) — why would the 76-year-old Berlusconi make a bid for a fourth term as Italy’s prime minister?

Here are five reasons why he could be making the race.

Continue reading Five reasons Berlusconi returned to run in the upcoming Italian election

Bersani routs Renzi in ‘centrosinistra’ primary to lead Italian left next spring

Florence’s brash, young mayor Matteo Renzi and his campaign to lead the Italian left threatened to remake Italian politics at a time of upheaval and uncertainty greater than at any point in the past two decades.

But the rank-and-file of the Italian left chose the more familiar path on Sunday, elevating instead the familiar, older and more staid, even boring, president of Italy’s largest center-left party, the Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party), Pier Luigi Bersani (pictured above, enjoying a post-election beer).

The 61-year-old Bersani easily defeated the 37-year-old Renzi with around 61.1% of the vote (with just 38.8% for Renzi) — a victory so complete for Bersani that Renzi was winning only in Tuscany, the central Italian region that’s home to Florence, and even there, only with about 55% of the vote.

For many reasons, I argued last week that Bersani’s victory was very likely: his control of the PD party machinery, Italian cultural values that respect longevity (i.e. can you think of anyone in the past 50 years that could be described as ‘Italy’s JFK’?), close ties to Italy’s largest union, the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL, General Confederation of Labour) and support from the candidate who placed third in the first round of the primary election, Nichi Vendola.  Vendola is the openly-gay, two-term regional president of Puglia, a more leftist candidate who is the leader and founder of the Sinistra Ecologia Libertà (SEL, Left Ecology Freedom), which will join with a handful of other small leftist parties in supporting Bersani as a candidate for prime minister in Italy’s general election, scheduled to be held on or before April 2013.  Vendola memorably said, on the same day as his endorsement, that Bersani’s words were ‘profumare di sinistra‘ — perfumed with leftism.

Current technocratic prime minister Mario Monti is not running in the upcoming election.  Monti has shepherded labor reforms, budget cuts and tax increases through the Italian parliament since the PD joined with the main center-right party, the center-right Popolo della Libertà (PdL, People of Freedom) in November 2011 to appoint Monti in the midst of a public finance crisis that resulted in Berlusconi’s resignation.

So what happens next?

Continue reading Bersani routs Renzi in ‘centrosinistra’ primary to lead Italian left next spring