April results roundup

Time to catch up on some world electoral news. There’s also an election this weekend in Albania, which I’ll aim to preview tomorrow.

Greenland

The self-governing Danish territory of Greenland went to the polls a fortnight ago to elect a new parliament. Greenland is the world’s largest island, occupying a big chunk of the north Atlantic, but it’s very thinly populated: there were only a little over 40,000 people on the roll, of whom not quite two-thirds turned out to vote.

The previous election, in 2018, had seen a fragmentation of politics, with seven parties represented in the 31-seat parliament and the two major parties, Forward (“Siumut”, centre-left) and Community of the People (“Inuit Ataqatigiit”, left-wing), winning only 53.2% of the vote between them. Siumut, which was narrowly ahead, formed a government with the support of two minor parties, but it fell apart early this year, resulting in a fresh election.

This time voters returned to the major parties, with Inuit Ataqatigiit being the main beneficiary: it gained a swing of 11.6% to finish well on top with 37.4% and 12 seats. (See official results here.) Siumut was up 2.7% to 30.1% and ten seats. Three other parties – all broadly centrist, but with differing views on the independence question – collected the remaining nine seats.

Last week Inuit Ataqatigiit announced that it had reached a coalition agreement with Naleraq, a pro-independence party that won four seats. Atassut, with two seats, has also promised its support. Mute Egede becomes prime minister with a mandate to block a rare-earth mining project that had been the major issue in the campaign.

Samoa

Another small election, but a more dramatic one, was held a few days later in the south Pacific. Samoa, one of many countries that was bequeathed a bad electoral system by its British colonists, has been governed by the same party since 1982 – the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), led by prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who has been in office since 1998.

The HRPP won a landslide victory in 2016 with 57.3% of the vote and 36 of the 49 seats (plus 11 independents, most of whom supported the ruling party). But a series of controversial decisions by the government, particularly concerning reform of land titles, led to the resignation of deputy prime minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa and the formation of a new opposition party, FAST (literally “Faith in the One True God”).

With parliament increased to 51 seats, FAST and the HRPP won 25 each, with one independent. The independent later announced that he would join with FAST, apparently giving it the majority and setting Mata’afa up to be the country’s first female prime minister.

But on Tuesday the electoral commission threw a spanner in the works by announcing that because there were only five women among the 51, the quota for 10% female representation had not been met, so it was adding an extra woman – the highest-performing unsuccessful candidate, who was from the HRPP. That created a 26-all tie, and constitutional deadlock.

Unless the courts take a different view to the electoral commission, or unless one party can secure a defection from the other, a return to the polls seems the most likely outcome.

Georgia

From a new constitutional crisis to one that looks to have been solved. Georgia (the country, not the state) went to the polls last November in an election won by the ruling Georgian Dream party. The opposition cried foul and boycotted the new parliament, a crisis that escalated two months ago when the government arrested opposition leader Nika Melia.

Georgia, however, has ambitions to one day join the European Union, so EU president Charles Michel embarked on an attempt at mediation. This week it paid off, with the announcement of an agreement that would lead to electoral reform, an end to the boycott and the release of Melia and another jailed opposition leader. It also provides for an early election if Georgian Dream fails to reach a threshold of 43% in local elections later this year.

Georgian Dream, and particularly prime minister Irakli Garibashvili, sound rather more keen on the deal than the opposition does. Some in the opposition evidently feel that they are giving up their present leverage in return for promises that may not be kept.

The EU on the other hand, starved of diplomatic success in recent times, was triumphant, with Michel congratulating Georgia (and implicitly himself) on “a truly European way of resolving the crisis.”

Western Australia

Finally to Western Australia, whose election was actually in March: as we saw at the time, it was won in an almighty landslide by the Labor government of premier Mark McGowan. But it took until this month for results to be finalised for the upper house, the Legislative Council. And they’re worth a look at, because they showcase the strange features of the electoral system.

With 60.3% of the vote, Labor won a clear majority, 22 of the 36 seats. (Official results are here; you can also check out the ABC’s version.) The Liberals, with 17.7%, won seven seats – pretty good for proportionality, and certainly much better than the Legislative Assembly, where their 21.3% of the vote won them only two seats out of 59.

The rest of the table, however, looks completely random. The Greens, with 6.4%, won just one seat; the same as the Daylight Saving Party, which had only 0.2%. The Nationals, with 2.8%, won three seats, but the Australian Christians, not far behind on 1.9%, got none at all. The other party to make the cut was Legalise Cannabis, with 2.0% and two seats. One Nation (1.5%) lost all its three seats, and the Shooters (also 1.5%) and the Liberal Democrats (0.6%) each lost their one.

Kevin Bonham gives a detailed analysis of the results and a call for reform, with which I heartily concur. He particularly draws attention to Daylight Saving’s victory, which he calls “the perfect storm of malapportionment and Group Ticket Voting,” coming as it did off just 98 votes in the Mining & Pastoral region but a favorable position in the lottery of ticket preferencing – and a great deal of luck.

If you ever wonder why our governments have so little interest in encouraging democracy overseas, the fact that they’re used to having so little of it at home might have something to do with it.

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