December electoral roundup, part 1

There’s quite a lot to catch up on in the electoral world, so this month’s roundup will be in two parts: part 2 to follow next week.

Iceland

Iceland went to the polls back in September (see my report here). The outgoing government was a disparate coalition of the Independence Party (centre-right), Left-Greens and Progressives (centrist-agrarian), in which the Left-Greens provided the prime minister despite being only the second-largest party.

Since the government increased its majority, now collectively holding 37 of the 63 seats, there was an expectation that the three would again team up. And so they did; last month they settled on a new coalition. Somewhat surprisingly, Left-Greens leader Katrín Jakobsdóttir remains as prime minister, despite the fact that her party lost ground and is now the smallest of the three.

Iceland is small and remote, but even so that’s a striking sign of the degree of mainstream acceptance that the Greens have achieved in Europe.

Kyrgyzstan

Particularly attentive readers may remember that Kyrgyzstan, in central Asia, held a presidential election last January, in which Sadyr Japarov, who had come to power in a revolution three months earlier, was confirmed in office with an implausible 80% of the vote on a low turnout. This was regarded as a major blow to the country’s previously respectable democratic credentials.

That impression was confirmed in legislative elections held two weeks ago, after the president had secured the adoption of a new constitution to strengthen his own powers. The electoral commission’s preliminary results added up to 150%, and when corrected figures were released it was discovered that a number of opposition parties had fallen below the 5% threshold for representation.

Official results are here (you’ll need some acquaintance with Cyrillic); they show three pro-government parties winning 36 of the 54 proportional seats. There are also 36 single-member seats, which have mostly been won by pro-government independents. The opposition has claimed fraud and called for the election to be annulled, which of course is the move that set off last year’s revolution in the first place.

Philippines

When we last looked at the Philippines, a couple of months ago, its authoritarian president Rodrigo Duterte had announced that he would not try to circumvent the ban on seeking re-election by running for vice-president on the ticket of his long-time lieutenant, Bong Go.

No-one put a lot of faith in the president’s assurances, but when nominations closed last month he was indeed not a candidate. His daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is however running for vice-president, while Go, having flirted with a vice-presidential run himself, has stuck to the original plan and is on the ballot for president.

But Duterte-Carpio is not supporting him; she is backing the current favorite for the presidency, Ferdinand Marcos jnr (known as “Bongbong”), son of the former dictator. (President and vice-president are elected separately and need not be from the same party.) Like the Dutertes he is nominally on the right, but at best they are allies of convenience.

Clearly if Duterte is looking for someone to safeguard his dubious legacy (and his personal safety), his daughter is a better bet. But since the election is not until May, there is plenty of opportunity for the sands to shift further.

Austria

Finally to Austria, which lost a prime minister two months ago and has now lost a second. Sebastian Kurz resigned in October when he came under investigation (which is still ongoing) in a bribery scandal, but remained as leader of the centre-right People’s Party, which governs in partnership with the Greens. Foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg took over as prime minister.

Last week Kurz apparently decided that his future in politics was unpromising, and that it was time for a career change (he is still only 35). Schallenberg then announced that he would also stand down as prime minister and return to the foreign office, since he thought it was best for the party leader and prime minister to be the same person.

The People’s Party then chose interior minister Karl Nehammer as its new leader, and on Monday he was duly sworn in as prime minister. He is regarded as a hardliner on immigration, which may not endear him to the Greens, but the two parties have managed to compromise their differences on this and other issues so far, and will probably continue to do so.

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