Mongolia held the first round of its presidential election on Monday. It’s a simple two-round system, with three candidates: Khaltmaa Battulga from the Democratic Party (centre-right), Miyeegombyn Enkhbold from the Mongolian People’s Party (centre-left) and Sainkhuugiin Ganbaatar from the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (basically left, but previously in coalition with the centre-right). The Democratic Party incumbent, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, retired after serving two terms.
Mongolia has a parliamentary system, so the president is mostly a figurehead. In parliamentary elections last year the Democrats were heavily defeated and a new centre-left government took office under prime minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat.
But the government now seems to be on the nose a bit, and Enkhbold, its presidential candidate, only scraped into the second round with 30.3% of the vote, 1,849 votes ahead of Ganbaatar. The centre-right’s Battulga led with 38.6%. Reuters says that Enkhbold “appears to have suffered as a result of his party’s austerity policies.”
As is not unusual in the developing world, the centre-left is the party of fiscal responsibility while the centre-right is sounding more chauvinist, even Trumpian, themes. The runoff, to be held on Sunday week (does anyone else hold their two rounds on different days of the week?), is said to be wide open, but if Battulga wins then there may be a period of tension with the Erdenebat government.
As was widely predicted, centre-left prime minister Edi Rama was comfortably re-elected last Sunday in Albania (see my preview here; official results here). His Socialist Party won 48.3% of the vote and 74 of the 140 seats, a gain of nine, giving it a majority in its own right for the first time.
The opposition Democratic Party (centre-right) won 28.8% and 43 seats (down seven), while the Socialist Movement for Integration, which had been a somewhat unreliable coalition partner for the Socialists, won 14.3% and 19 seats (up three). The right-wing nationalist Party for Justice, Integration and Unity improved its vote to 4.8% but lost one of its four seats.
Although it’s small and out-of-the-way, Albania thus confirms the recent European trend that populism seems to have lost its momentum and the established parties, particularly on the centre-left, are recovering ground. Voters appear to be opting for stability in an uncertain world.
Democrat leader Lulzim Basha said he accepted full responsibility for the defeat. Turnout was a disappointing 46.7%, although the fact that the election coincided with the end of Ramadan may have had something to do with that.
From low turnout to high turnout: in Malta’s general election, held on 2 June (preview here), 92.1% of the electorate cast ballots. But again the incumbents did well. The Labour Party government of Joseph Muscat, faced with a tax evasion scandal, was expected to lose some ground, but in fact held its vote almost exactly, at 55.0% (up 0.2%). Three of the overhang seats from last time were eliminated, leaving the government with 37 seats (down two) to the opposition Nationalists with 30 (down one). (Official results here.)
Yet again, minor parties failed to make an impression. Democratic Alternative (Greens) scored 0.8% of the vote (down 1.0%) and the far-right Maltese Patriots Movement debuted with just 0.4%. Neither was anywhere near winning a seat. However, one of the Nationalists’ 30 actually went to its coalition partner, the Democratic Party, on a joint ticket.
Nationalist leader Simon Busuttil has resigned in the wake of his party’s disappointing performance, admitting to “having been surprised by the result.”
Finally to the Netherlands, where readers will remember that the election, held more than three months ago, was a setback for the far right. The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD, right-liberal) of prime minister Mark Rutte was comfortably returned as the largest party, and was expected to be able to assemble a broadly centrist coalition government.
And probably it still will. But that was in March, and talks are still to reach a conclusion. The process is that the king, Willem-Alexander, appoints an informateur to lead negotiations between the parties to develop a plausible coalition. Once that’s done, a formateur or prime-minister-designate is appointed to actually present a government to parliament.
The Dutch are now on their third informateur; Edith Schippers from VVD and Herman Tjeenk Willink from Labor both gave up the job after failing to get an agreement. This week former finance minister Gerrit Zalm has taken on the task.
As various options have been discarded – Labor and the Greens have both refused to be involved – the parties have been forced back on the minimum feasible combination: VVD, Christian Democrats, D66 (left-liberals) and Christian Union, who between them have a bare majority in parliament. Differences on social issues between D66 and the Christian Union sank the last attempt along those lines, but they have now agreed to try again.
It’s a long way behind the record of neighboring Belgium, which took 18 months to form a government after its 2010 election, but it’s still not a good look.