While 2016 was a year of electoral upsets, 2017 has so far been quite predictable. None of Sunday’s three elections (all previewed here) produced a surprise result.
No-one really expects to be able to beat the government in Armenia, and the first parliamentary election under the new constitution certainly bore that out. The ruling Republican Party of Armenia won 49.2% of the vote, which on my calculation will give it 55 seats in the 101-seat parliament. (Official results are here in Armenian, but you can download an English-language spreadsheet here.)
Its main rival, the Tsarukyan Alliance – although “rival” is possibly too strong, since both parties represent the same governing elite – had 27.3% for a projected 31 seats. Only two other parties cleared the 5% threshold: the Way Out Alliance, which looks a bit more like a real opposition party, with 7.8% and eight seats, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, a junior partner in government, with 6.6% and seven seats.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe has given a mixed verdict, saying that the election was “well administered and fundamental freedoms were generally respected,” but pointing to a variety of problems that “contributed to an overall lack of public confidence and trust in the elections.” That’s better than a number of other post-Soviet states can manage, but it’s less than an ideal beginning for the new era of parliamentary government.
Mikayel Zolyan’s preview at the Conversation is well worth a read.
Serbia is more like a real democracy, but the result of its presidential election was equally one-sided. Prime minister Aleksandr Vucic has had no trouble in transferring to the position of head of state, winning 55.1% of the vote against ten opponents. (Official results are here; Serbo-Croat is a lot easier than Armenian.) The nearest was independent Sasha Jankovic with 16.3%.
Satirist Luka Maksimovic, who was the focus of much of the international coverage, came third with 9.4%.
Vucic has been a successful and strongly pro-European leader, and he aims to take the country into membership of the European Union (about which the EU has been dragging its feet). But there are also concerns about concentration of power and constraints on the freedom of the media. Vucic denies that he wants to draw more power to the presidency, but at the age of 47 he is presumably not looking for a sinecure, so it’s hard to see why he would have wanted the job if he didn’t have some such plan.
For a close election, one had to go to South America, where Ecuador was very much the close result that the polls had predicted. But the ruling party’s Lenín Moreno appears to have held on for a narrow victory, with 51.1% to the centre-right’s Guillermo Lasso on 48.9%. (As in the first round, I can’t get the official website to yield any results, but others may have more luck; in any case, the numbers are widely reported in the media.)
The exit polls had apparently put Lasso in the lead, so he is calling for a recount and his supporters are crying foul. But something would have to have gone very badly wrong for a margin of 225,000 votes to be reversed in a recount.
Latin America has swung quite solidly to the right in the last few years. Ecuador has followed the trend – last time around, Rafael Correa was elected with 57.2% in the first round to Lasso’s 22.7% – but just not enough for a change of government. While it’s a bit much to say (as the Guardian does) that Moreno will “cement Ecuador’s reputation as a bastion of the left,” the result will certainly come as a relief for many on the left, including the hapless Julian Assange.
Four years ago in neighboring Venezuela another leftist, Nicholás Maduro, narrowly held off a challenger from the right to take the succession to a charismatic leader, Hugo Chávez. Moreno, one hopes, will have studied that country’s subsequent descent into chaos and take care not to follow the same path.