As we come to the end of the financial year, it’s time for an update on some recent electoral events.
Mexico’s legislative election was held three weeks ago (see my preview here). The coalition supporting left-wing populist president Andrés Manuel López Obrador lost ground to the opposition but nonetheless held its majority in the Chamber of Deputies.
Of the 500 seats, 300 are elected by first-past-the-post in single-member districts. That’s where the administration did particularly well last time, winning 218 of them with 43.4% of the vote. This time its vote fell only slightly, to a combined 41.8%, but because its opponents were better organised it lost 32 seats. Among the 200 proportional seats it made up some ground, picking up seven seats for a total of 95.*
The president’s supporters will therefore have a total of 281 seats: 199 for López Obrador’s own party, Morena, 43 for the Greens and 39 for the Labor Party. The main opposition coalition will have 196: 111 for the centre-right National Action Party, 70 for the establishment Institutional Revolutionary Party and 15 for the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution. The centre-left Citizens’ Movement, which is also in opposition but ran separately, will hold the remaining 23.
So Mexican politics, which was so stable and predictable for so long, now looks much more fragmented. The opposition parties have little in common beyond their opposition to López Obrador; Morena, in turn, is little more than a personal vehicle for the president. How they will sort themselves out in 2024 is anyone’s guess.
Armenia, which voted a week ago (preview here), produced a much more decisive result. Prime minister Nicol Pashinyan was vindicated in his decision to call an early election, with voters giving him a renewed mandate despite defeat in last year’s war with Azerbaijan.
Pashinyan’s party, Civil Contract, won 54.0% of the vote and 72 of the 105 seats. His main opposition, the Armenia Alliance of former president Robert Kocharyan, could manage only 21.1% and 27 seats. The right-wing I Have Honor alliance, with 5.2%, picked up the remaining six seats: although it fell below the 7% threshold for multi-party alliances, there is a requirement that at least three parties have to be represented.
Prosperous Armenia (4.0%) and the Hanrapetutyun Party (3.0%) fell below the threshold, and another eight parties scored around one or two per cent. Most of the parties that missed out seem to lean towards the opposition, so Pashinyan’s win is not quite as big as it might appear, but it’s still pretty impressive. Turnout was 49.3%, up only very slightly on 2018.
Defeat on the battlefield is rarely a political winner, and there will probably still be tough times ahead for Pashinyan. For the moment, however, Armenians seem willing to give him another chance.
I neglected to mention in advance the Algerian parliamentary election, held a fortnight ago. Algeria over the last couple of years has been engaged in an imperfect process of democratisation, which began when public protests forced the resignation of long-serving president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April 2019.
A fresh presidential election in December 2019 was won by former prime minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune; this failed to appease the protest movement, since he was very much part of the old political establishment. But he persevered with a mildly reformist program, and last November – after some Covid-induced delays – a new constitution was approved by referendum.
Further protests this year produced some changes in the government, and Tebboune dissolved parliament in February for an early election. The results suggest that there’s not much real change in the air: although the ruling National Liberation Front lost ground, it remains the largest party with 98 of the 407 seats, and the other four main parties are all more or less loyal to the existing regime. (There are also 84 independents, a big increase on last time.)
Turnout was only 23%, which suggests that most Algerians have little confidence in the government’s intentions. That said, they only have to look at neighboring Libya to see how things could be a great deal worse.
Finally, in our part of the world, there’s the long-running saga of Samoa’s constitutional crisis. Readers may recall that last month the leader of the FAST party, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, was sworn in as prime minister in an unofficial ceremony held after she and her MPs were locked out of parliament. Long-serving prime minister Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, leader of the HRPP, accused the opposition of attempting a coup and refused to leave office.
Talks between the two sides failed to resolve matters, but a petition against the election of one of the HRPP’s MPs was upheld, increasing FAST’s majority (pending a by-election) to 26-24. But an earlier Supreme Court decision meant that an extra female MP would have to be appointed to satisfy affirmative action, and Tuila’epa refused to convene parliament until this and other petitions were finalised.
So both parties went back to the Supreme Court, and last Friday it clarified that its earlier decisions should not prevent parliament from meeting. Today it was more explicit and ruled that parliament must convene within a week, and that efforts to prevent it would be treated as contempt of court. While it declared Fiame’s do-it-yourself swearing-in invalid, it said that it could be subsequently reactivated if there was no alternative.
The decision appears to leave Tuila’epa without a leg to stand on, but if the HRRP can win the Sagaga 2 by-election it may yet be able to create a parliamentary deadlock down the track.
* Official results are here. I can’t find an actual allocation of the proportional seats on the website, so I’ve done my own with a least-remainder calculation based on a 3% threshold.