An irregular feature in which we update you on the latest electoral events.
Former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen didn’t get long to savor his narrow victory in Austria’s presidential election. Little more than a month after the vote, the result was annulled by the country’s Constitutional Court, on the grounds that postal votes had been improperly handled – although there was apparently no suggestion that either candidate was to blame.
The election now will be re-run on 2 October, again pitting Van der Bellen against Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party. Last time he won by just 31,000 votes, but after the court ruling he expressed confidence in his prospects: “If we can do it once,” he said, “we can do it again.”
Since May, however, European politics has been through the earthquake of the British referendum, and no-one really knows how that will play out. The immediate effect seemed to be a boost to far-right morale, but the forces of moderation may now be reasserting themselves. Hofer has been obliged to backtrack on his earlier threat to push for an Austrian exit from the European Union.
The Republican Party gathers next week in Cleveland for its nominating convention, to be followed a week later by the Democrats in Philadelphia. (By a long-standing unofficial arrangement, the party in opposition gets to hold its convention first.)
Not so long ago there were high hopes for a contested convention – Matt Yglesias said it “could become the most interesting thing to ever happen in the city of Cleveland” – but in the later primaries Donald Trump won enough delegates to guarantee a victory on the first ballot.
In theory, that need not prevent the Republican leadership from trying to stop him by some sort of rule change, but that now seems unlikely. Nor is there much suspense about the choice of Trump’s running mate, with fundamentalist Indiana governor Mike Pence seen as a near-certainty for the spot. Instead the convention will be mostly noteworthy for how many senior Republicans stay away, and for how Trump is received by those that do show up.
It’s a couple of weeks ago now, but still worth noting the result of Mongolia’s general election, held on 29 June. As expected, the Democratic Party (centre-right) government was defeated and the opposition Mongolian People’s Party (centre-left), which has held power for most of the country’s post-Soviet history, was returned with a large majority. Its leader, Jargaltulga Erdenebat, is the new prime minister.
In terms of seats, the centre-left won a landslide: 65 seats to nine, with just one for a minor party and one independent. Outgoing prime minister Chimed Saikhanbileg lost his own seat. But the difference in votes was not nearly so great; the Mongolian People’s Party will dominate the parliament with just 45.7% of the vote, while the Democratic Party won 33.5%. (Rather than tackling the Mongolian-language version of the electoral commission’s website, I’m simply assuming that whoever transcribed the results to Wikipedia got them right.)
As is so often the case, the problem is a first-past-the-post system with single-member districts. Previously, there had been a proportional component as well, but the politicians agreed to abolish it this year following a supreme court decision. That’s why the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, with 8.1% of the vote, managed only one seat.
From a landslide to a cliffhanger: Australia’s Liberal-National coalition government has been returned, but with a very narrow majority. With one seat, Herbert, still in doubt, the government will have either 76 or 77 seats in the House of Representatives. The Labor opposition will have 68 or 69, with five for minor parties and independents – the majority of whom have said they will support the government on votes of confidence.
The Senate will take another couple of weeks to be decided, but there’s no doubt it will be a minefield for the government – as was always going to be the case once it decided on a double dissolution. (Most pundits still haven’t cottoned on to the fact that the double dissolution wasn’t a manoeuvre to secure a better Senate, but rather a declaration that the Senate didn’t matter.) At present the numbers look something like Coalition 31, ALP 27, eight Greens and ten others. Since I had forecast 31-27-9-9, I think that’s pretty good.
The real problem for prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, however, will not be control of parliament but control of his own party. His rather underwhelming election performance has probably made that problem harder rather than easier.