With all the attention on the United States, it’s easy to miss other things that have been happening in the electoral world. So here’s a recap of recent events; part II, to follow soon, will include Northern Cyprus, Queensland, Georgia and Ivory Coast.
New Zealand voted two weeks ago, but results are still not final. Like Australia, it waits a fortnight for postal votes to be returned; unlike Australia, it doesn’t post progress tallies of them but waits to post them all at once. But there’s no prospect that the result will be substantially changed – at most a seat might be gained or lost somewhere.
The re-elected Labour government isn’t waiting; prime minister Jacinda Ardern has already signed a new “co-operation agreement” with the Greens. The Greens get two junior ministries, outside the cabinet and not bound by collective responsibility. In return they promise to support the government on issues of confidence – support that it shouldn’t need, since Labour has a majority in its own right. But you never know what the future may hold, so Ardern has given herself some extra insurance.
Results (also provisional) of the two referenda held in conjunction with the election have been released. Voters approved a voluntary euthanasia measure by a large majority, with 65.9% voting “yes”. A proposal to legalise recreational use of marijuana, however, was defeated by a smaller but still clear margin, 53.5% saying “no”.
Not all incumbents, however, have been doing well. In Seychelles, which voted a week ago, challenger Wavel Ramkalawan finally won the presidency at his sixth attempt, beating incumbent Danny Faure with a relatively comfortable 54.9% to 43.5% – a margin of more than seven thousand votes (Seychelles isn’t very big).
As explained in my preview, Faure has been cohabiting with Ramkalawan’s Seychelles Democratic Union (LDS) since the opposition won the 2016 parliamentary election. This year the two were held simultaneously, and the LDS increased its parliamentary majority, winning 25 seats (up six) as against just ten for Faure’s United Seychelles (down four; the size of parliament has been increased by two).
Since United Seychelles (under different names) has held the presidency ever since it seized power in a coup in 1977, this is a big occasion for Seychelles. Peaceful transfers of power are still unusual in the region: they deserve to be celebrated.
Also a week ago was the second round of the Lithuanian parliamentary election. It was already clear from the first round (see report here) that the government, led by the Farmers & Greens party, was in trouble; it won only 16 of the 70 proportional seats, as against 23 for the main opposition party, the centre-right Homeland.
Sure enough, in the second round the constituency seats went much the same way. Homeland won 27 of them, taking it to 50 out of 141. The Farmers & Greens finished with 32, and another eight parties (plus four independents) shared the rest, including four that hadn’t reached the threshold for proportional seats.
Homeland lost no time in putting together a majority coalition, teaming up with the two liberal parties – the Liberal Movement (right-leaning), with 13 seats, and the Freedom Party (left-leaning) with 11. (The left-liberals actually won more votes than the right-liberals, 9.4% to 7.0%, but the latter did better in the single-member seats.) The new government is expected to be sworn in this week, with Homeland leader Ingrida Šimonytė as prime minister.
Finally there’s Tanzania, in east Africa, which went to the polls last Wednesday to elect a president and parliament. Elections in Tanzania are historically pretty predictable: the ruling party, the Party of the Revolution (CCM), and its predecessors have held power ever since independence from Britain in 1961.
The last one, however, in 2015, attracted a bit more interest. Then-president Jakaya Kikwete was prevented by term limits from running again, and the opposition Party for Democracy and Progress mounted a strong challenge. But the CCM’s candidate, John Magufuli, was declared the winner with 58.5% of the vote.
This time the CCM decided not to take a chance. Magufuli, running for a second term, was credited with a not-believable 84.4%, against just 13.0% for opposition candidate Tundu Lissu and 2.6% in aggregate for the remaining 13. Opposition supporters have taken to the streets to state the obvious, that the election was rigged.
Lissu, as quoted by the BBC, described the government as “just a gang of people who have just decided to misuse state machinery to cling to power.” But whether popular discontent will be able to do anything about it remains to be seen.