Time for a quick run through some recent electoral events.
Lithuania held its parliamentary election on Sunday (see my preview here). The main opposition party, the centre-right Homeland, topped the poll with 25.7%, up 3.1% on 2016 and a better-than-expected lead over the governing Farmers & Greens (agrarian-centrist) on 18.1%, down 4.3%. (Official results here.)
Three other parties – Labour (centrist-populist), the Social Democrats (centre-left) and the Freedom Party (left-liberal) – were clustered together just under 10%. The Liberal Movement (right-liberal) with 7.0% was the only other party to clear the 5% threshold; the ethnic Polish list just missed out.*
That gives Homeland 23 of the 70 proportional seats, but the key thing will be the 71 single-member seats, almost all of which will have to wait for the second round in two weeks time. Based on the first round figures Homeland looks set to win at least 21 of them, and is leading in another 15. A Wikipedia user has produced a lovely color map of the first-round leaders.
Once again, social upheaval starts with a dodgy election. Kyrgyzstan, often described as the only democracy in central Asia, went to the polls on 4 October for a parliamentary election that – on paper, at least – gave the two largest parties, both pro-government, more than three-quarters of the seats between them, despite the fact that they had won slightly less than half the vote.
Mass protests soon led to the electoral commission annulling the results, and then to a more general collapse of central authority, with the resignation of prime minister Kubatbek Boronov and rival opposition groups seizing control of various institutions. The situation remains fluid, but the logical outcome would be a broad-based transitional government pledged to hold fresh and fair elections.
Meanwhile, a presidential election in neighboring Tajikistan a week later illustrated the more usual course of events in the region. Incumbent Emomali Rahmon, in office since 1992, was re-elected with 92.1% of the vote against four thoroughly tame opponents.
When we last looked at the long-running Belgian saga it appeared that a majority government was finally on the brink of being formed. And so it happened, with Alexander De Croo, the head of the Dutch-speaking liberals, sworn in as prime minister of a seven-party coalition: Flemish Christian Democrats plus both Flemish and Walloon versions of liberals, social democrats and Greens.
The Flemish separatists, as expected, are not happy, leading to further questioning of Belgium’s future as a single country. But a lot could happen between now and the next election, due in May 2024; De Croo’s government certainly has time to soothe the tensions if it can.
Commentary on the issue usually mentions that the separatist parties left out, the nationalist N-VA and the far-right Flemish Interest, were the two largest vote-getters at the last election. That’s strictly true but slightly misleading, due to the fact that the mainstream parties all run as separate Dutch- and French-speaking entities. But there is no French-speaking equivalent to the N-VA, and the Walloon far-right party had negligible support. Aggregating the different components, the social democrats and the liberals would actually take first and second place.
The Austrian city-state of Vienna also went to the polls on Sunday, in the first electoral test of the centre-right/Greens coalition government that took office at federal level earlier this year. Vienna is a stronghold of the centre-left, so it was no surprise that Social Democrat mayor-premier Michael Ludwig was re-elected with 43.1% of the vote (before postals, of which there are a lot). His coalition partners, the Greens, had another 12.2%.
Even so, the collapse in the far-right vote was staggering. Last time around the Freedom Party was nipping at the heels of the Social Democrats with 30.8% of the vote, but it has been in crisis since the middle of last year when its then leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, was caught on tape seeking illegal campaign donations from Russian sources. On Sunday its vote plunged to the single digits, putting it in fourth place on 8.9%.
Strache, having left the party, struck out on his own with his Team HC Strache, but managed only 4.3% of the vote, below the 5% threshold. Most of the far-right vote, as one would expect, went to the centre-right People’s Party, which doubled its score to 18.5%, but the Social Democrats, Greens and liberals all made gains as well.
Elections are on this weekend in New Zealand, Bolivia and the unrecognised state of Northern Cyprus. We’ll aim to have a look at them on Thursday and Friday.
* On the preliminary figures they have 4.9987%, thus apparently missing out by only about 15 votes, but it seems the electoral commission does the calculation on the total vote, without factoring out the informals, making it a good deal clearer (although still very close).
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