Two interesting elections from recent weeks are yet to result in new governments being formed, but in each case progress has been made. Results are also in from elections in the last few days, although in one case they’re still frustratingly incomplete.
The new German parliament, elected a month earlier, was sworn in last week, although there’s still no new government to go with it (see previous report here). But one looks to be well on the way: Greens and Liberals both agreed to coalition talks with the Social Democrats, and the three between them have a substantial majority, 416 of the 736 seats.
Success is not guaranteed, but the Liberals – who were the ones that refused to come to the party in both 2005 and 2017 – seem rather more committed to the process this time. A “traffic light” coalition has never held office federally before, but one is currently in its second term in Rhineland-Palatinate, and similar coalitions govern in neighboring Belgium and Luxembourg.
In the meantime, Angela Merkel remains in office in a caretaker capacity, and if she is still there on 22 November will mark 16 years in the job.
Czechia went to the polls on 9 October, two weeks after Germany. Its result was more clear-cut (see report here), but there was initial speculation that the president, Miloš Zeman, would attempt to find a way to keep Andrej Babiš as prime minister, and matters were then complicated by the fact that Zeman was hospitalised and unable to carry out his functions.
But despite the messy situation, all the signs are that a regular transfer of power will take place. Babiš has conceded defeat, and the opposition parties that jointly won a majority have agreed this week on the terms of a coalition government, with Civic Democrat leader Petr Fiala as prime minister. Fiala reports receiving a message from Zeman’s office indicating that the president looks forward to meeting him.
Zeman’s prospects of completing his term (which runs until March 2023) don’t look good, and Babiš is tipped to run if the job falls vacant. But given the electorate’s rejection of his government and his legal troubles over accusations of corruption, he would have to be regarded as a long shot.
Japan’s election was last Sunday (see my preview here), and ran along predictable lines. The governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), led for the last month by Fumio Kishida, retained its majority, winning 261 of the 465 seats, down 23 from its 2017 total. It’s junior partner, Komeito, won 32 (up three), for an overall government majority of 121. (Although the LDP doesn’t need Komeito for its lower house majority, it does in the upper house, which is elected separately.)
The main opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP), finished with 96 seats. Whether that’s a gain or not depends on what you’re comparing it with: last time it won 55, but since then it’s absorbed most of the more conservative Party of Hope, which had won 50. It looks as if a fair bit of the Party of Hope’s vote migrated to the right-wing Ishin, which jumped from eleven seats to 41.
In fifth place was the new Democratic Party for the People, a centre-right party that also took over some of the Party of Hope’s ground, with eleven seats, followed by the Communists on ten (down two) and the new left-wing Reiwa with three. (Complete results are here, albeit in Japanese.) Turnout was 55.9%, up slightly from 2017 but still suggesting a high degree of voter disengagement.
The government’s large majority represents the support of about half the electorate, but with a divided opposition and a favorable electoral system that’s more than enough. The greater concentration of the vote with the CDP offers it some hope for the future, but there’s a long way to go.
Finally to yesterday’s off-year elections in the United States, where the Republican Party had a good day, winning the governor’s race in Virginia and coming surprisingly close in New Jersey.
Virginia was close, just as the polls said (see my preview here), but Republican Glenn Youngkin led from early in the count and was never overtaken. With a handful of votes still outstanding he has 50.9% to 48.4% for Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a margin of about 80,000 votes. (I’m using the New York Times’s figures.) Republicans also took the separately elected positions of lieutenant-governor and attorney-general.
New Jersey took longer to call, although it will probably end up being less close. Incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy currently has 50.0% of the vote against 49.2% for his Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli. (A Green, a Libertarian and a Trotskyist share the remaining 0.8%.) But there is still something like ten per cent of the vote to count, and it will mostly favor Murphy – although it’s very hard to say by how much, since New Jersey’s reporting of the results is pretty ramshackle. Progress reports and discussion are available at FiveThirtyEight.com.
Taken together, the results are a major wake-up call for Joe Biden and the Democrats, who need to stop fighting among themselves and start presenting a positive message. But there’s also a big question mark for the Republicans, who succeeded by keeping Donald Trump out of their campaign: it’s not clear how feasible that will be in a nationwide election.
Update, Saturday: Counting is still not complete, but enough has been done to substantiate my claim that New Jersey would be a wider margin than Virginia. Murphy now leads by 65,000 votes, 50.9% to 48.3%, whereas Virginia has narrowed slightly, with Youngkin now leading 50.8% to 48.5%.
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