Catching up on some of the latest election news.
Democrats and Republicans went to the polls overnight in Indiana, the last mid-western state to vote. The Democrat primary was of only symbolic interest; Bernie Sanders wanted a win to maintain the pressure on Hillary Clinton in policy terms. Although it hasn’t been called yet, it looks as if he’s got it: with 68% of precincts reporting, he’s leading by more than six points, 53.2% to 46.8%.
The Republican vote, however, was much more significant. It was billed as Ted Cruz’s last stand, and sure enough that’s how it came out. Donald Trump, who in the last week had already gone back to looking like the inevitable nominee, has scored a clear win, currently 53.0% to Cruz’s 36.7%. John Kasich, who had half-heartedly tried to throw his support to Cruz, has 7.7%.
That will almost certainly give Trump all 57 of Indiana’s delegates, meaning that even on the most conservative assumptions he will arrive at the Republican convention so close to a first-ballot majority as to be practically unbeatable. Seeing the writing on the wall, Cruz has conceded defeat and “suspended” his campaign.
So it’s over. Matt Yglesias at this point puts it better than I could, even in his headline: “Donald Trump is really going to be the nominee. This is actually happening.” (The fact that it was written before the Indiana results came through is icing on the cake.)
Ireland, as you might remember, went to the polls just over two months ago. The governing party, Fine Gael, lost ground badly, mostly to its historic rival, Fianna Fáil. Between them the major parties had about half the vote and well over half the seats, and the fragmentation of the rest of the vote among minor parties and independents suggested that the big two were going to have to co-operate somehow.
They’ve spent most of the intervening time trying to resist that conclusion, but last week they finally came together. The deal is that Fine Gael will form a minority government, and Fianna Fáil will agree not to unseat it in parliament for at least three years.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny will still need the support of some of the 23 independent MPs in order to win an initial vote of confidence – on which Fianna Fáil will abstain. That might take a few more days, but there doesn’t seem much doubt that he’ll get it eventually.
Unlike the parallel case of Spain, no-one in Ireland seemed at all keen on another election. Cultural differences may be part of the explanation, but more important is probably the fact that although Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been rivals for a long time, there is no real ideological split between them. Once they actually started talking, reaching agreement wasn’t that hard.
Iran voted on the same day as Ireland in the first round of its parliamentary election. As reported at the time, it was a good result for moderate and reformist candidates allied to president Hassan Rouhani. That was confirmed in the second round, held last Friday.
The reformists will not have a majority, but they have clearly outvoted the hardliners. Numbers are to some extent fluid, but it’s reported that Rouhani’s supporters will have 122 seats in the 290-member parliament, as against 84 conservatives. Associated Press, evidently allocating more of the independents, says 143 to 86.
Even president and parliament together have limited control; Iran fundamentally remains a dictatorship under the control of theocrat Ali Khamenei. After three years in office, Rouhani has the major achievement of the nuclear deal with the west to his credit, but there has been little progress on domestic reform.
The previous reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, won a large parliamentary majority, but it never seemed to do him much good. It’s true that he faced an unsympathetic American administration; Rouhani may do better from Hillary Clinton (although perhaps not much better). And for both sides, the experience of the Arab Spring is there as a warning that there are worse things than gradual reform, however slow.
And finally one starting with something other than “I”. Results have been declared from the presidential election, or “election”, held ten days ago in Equatorial Guinea, and they show the expected landslide victory for long-term incumbent, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
Obiang is Africa’s longest-serving ruler and one of its most brutal and authoritarian. The best that can be said for him is that he is an improvement on his uncle, the psychopathic Francisco Macías Nguema, whom he overthrew and had executed in 1979. The country ranks 163rd out of 167 on the Economist’s Democracy Index; its economy, once buoyant, has been hard hit by falling oil prices.
Official results maintain that Obiang won 93.7% of the vote against six mostly tame opponents, none of whom managed more than 1.5%. Yet perhaps it’s worth noting that these days even the countries at the very bottom of the democratic barrel, like Equatorial Guinea, still make a show of holding elections and have some sort of functioning internal opposition.
That wouldn’t have happened in his uncle’s day.