World election news, part I

Romania

Sunday’s election in Romania (see preview here) produced the expected swing to the cente-left; although they will not have an absolute majority, there’s no doubt that they will form the new government.

Near-final results (they’re in Romanian, but pretty straightforward; “Camera Deputaților” is Chamber of Deputies) show the Social Democrats (PSD) on 45.3% and the centre-right National Liberals (PNL) with just 20.0% – a rather bigger lead than the polls had predicted. Another four parties have passed the 5% threshold for representation.

A D’Hondt calculation on those numbers gives the PSD 153 of the 308 proportional seats, the PNL 68, the populist Save Romania Union 31, the Democratic Union of Hungarians 21, the liberal ALDE 18 and the centre-right people’s party 17. There are also another 18 seats for ethnic minorities (which in that context evidently doesn’t include the Hungarians) and four for expatriate Romanians.

It looks as if the PSD will form a government with the aid of ALDE and/or the Hungarians, although there’s some doubt as to whether party leader Liviu Dragnea, who has been convicted of electoral fraud and is serving a suspended sentence, will be eligible for the prime ministership.

France

This Thursday is the deadline for candidates to register for the French Socialist Party’s presidential primary. As expected, the withdrawal of incumbent president François Hollande was quickly followed by an announcement by prime minister Manuel Valls that he would be a candidate.

Voting will take place over two rounds on 22 and 29 January. Valls will start a warm favorite; one poll last week gives him 45% support, against left-wingers Arnaud Montebourg and Benoît Hamon with 28% and 11% respectively.

There seems little prospect that any new entrant will rival those three in support. In particular, it looks as if the project of trying to beat the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, from centre-right to far left, is going to be an all-male affair. Three prominent Socialist women, former party secretary Martine Aubry, 2007 candidate Ségolène Royal, and former housing minister Marie-Noëlle Lienemann, have all declined to run. Former industry minister Emmanuel Macron, preparing his own independent centrist candidacy, has also ruled out competing in the Socialist primary.

Iceland

Iceland voted a month and a half ago, on 29 October (see results here), but is yet to see a new government as a result.

In principle, forming a majority coalition in Iceland shouldn’t be too difficult. It does not have the problem that many European countries have of one or more extremist parties winning a chunk of seats and narrowing the available options. On the contrary, there is an available majority composed of five broadly centrist parties, which between them have 32 of the 63 seats: the Progressive Party (right-liberal) with eight seats, Reform and Bright Future (both centrist) with seven and four respectively, the Pirate Party with ten and the Social Democrats with three.

But there are some problems with this. It would leave out the two largest parties: the Independence Party (centre-right, 21 seats) and the Left-Green Movement (ten seats). The Pirates have refused to talk to the Progressives, who were part of the outgoing centre-right government. And in any case, 32 out of 63 is too small a majority to be confident about – particularly if you’re trying to hold together five different parties, where in the past two has been more the norm.

President Guðni Jóhannesson gave the first opportunity to form government to the Independence Party, and when they failed he turned to the Left-Green Movement. They also threw in the towel after unsuccessful coalition talks, and the commission then went to the Pirates, whose third-place finish with 14.5% of the vote was less than some polls had tipped but still by far the best result for a pirate party anywhere.

Pirate leader Birgitta Jonsdottir attempted to construct a five-party coalition with the Left-Green Movement, Reform, Bright Future and the Social Democrats, but now she too has conceded defeat. It could be a long winter in Iceland.

Ghana

In the eight years since I last wrote about Ghana, the west African country has continued its remarkable democratic stability. As a result of elections last week, the presidency will pass from one party to the other for the third time in twenty years – an outcome that, despite recent progress, remains rare elsewhere in the region.

Incumbent John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (centre-left) took office in 2012 following the death of his predecessor, John Atta Mills, and was elected in his own right at the end of that year. Running for a second full term, however, he was defeated by Nana Akufo-Addo, of the New Patriotic Party (centre-right), by the reasonably comfortable margin of 53.8% to 44.4%. (Five also-rans managed less than 1% each.)

This was Akufo-Addo’s third attempt at the presidency, having missed out narrowly in 2012 and very narrowly (with 49.8%) in 2008. His party also won a majority in parliament.

Ghana’s record is a remarkable tribute to its former military ruler, Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, whose drastic methods (he had three former presidents shot, together with numerous senior officers and even judges) seem to have achieved the necessary clean-out of Ghana’s political class.

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